A late-night fender bender exposes a family’s fault lines in Kistler’s domestic suspense debut.
High school senior Kip Conley has been grounded since the state of Virginia suspended his license for operating under the influence, but tomorrow is Kip’s 18th birthday, and his father, Pete, and stepmother, Leigh, are out of town, so Kip borrows Pete’s truck and attends a house party. Just before midnight, Kip’s 14-year-old stepsister, Chrissy Porter, bursts in. Kip ignored her phone calls, so she biked through the rain to warn him that their parents are en route. Racing home, the kids swerve to avoid a dog and hit a tree. Although the damage is minimal, the truck is stuck, prompting a neighbor to call 911 and the police to arrest Kip, who has been drinking. Leigh hires her best friend from law school to defend Kip against what she presumes will be minor charges, but the next day, Chrissy suffers a fatal cerebral hemorrhage. Kip claims he’s innocent of manslaughter because, contrary to what he told the cops, Chrissy was driving when they crashed. Pete believes him, but Leigh accuses Kip of lying to save himself. Pete and Kip move out, and Leigh disappears into her job while investigators try to corroborate Kip’s account. Can the once “perfectly blended” clan survive the truth—whatever it may be? Subplots stemming from Leigh’s work as a divorce attorney tie into the central mystery and bolster the book’s narrative drive. Though Leigh’s maternal grief is palpable, she’s not the story’s sole focus; Kistler takes pains to explore the uniquely devastating ways in which the tragedy impacts Pete, Kip, and Chrissy’s other surviving relatives.
Evocative writing and wholly realized characters complement a multifaceted tale that’s both harrowing and profound.