It was a British Columbia summer, "so hot you couldn’t walk outside without feeling your skin cook," when 14-year-old Jess killed her father.
It was a fitting response to multiple abuses. This time, home from the Alberta oil fields and drunk, he attempted to drown Jess’ older sister Courtney in a toilet. Dani, oldest of the Campbell girls, took charge. The sisters buried the body in a hog pen and set off for Vancouver, running out of money in the worst possible place—Cash Creek. Gavin and Brian, two boys from a nearby ranch, offered work, but that was a ruse. Brian, while amoral, is the lesser villain, but Gavin, danger “rolled off him in waves, a dark and cold energy," is a fearsome psychopath. The sisters are held prisoner, tortured, and raped. There’s a fight. The girls escape. No police, because of the father’s death, but Allen, an ex-con bar owner with a pay-it-forward mindset, helps the sisters get to Vancouver. Jess narrates this story, with anger, confusion, and regret over the shooting spilling out. In Vancouver, a friend of Allen’s helps with new identities for the sisters—they're now called Dallas, Jamie, and Crystal. Then Jess/Jamie turns up pregnant, and there’s a moving portrayal of the elemental connection between mother and a child in womb. Seventeen years later, the novel’s second half unfolds from daughter Skylar’s, point of view, its violent climax triggered when Skylar’s curiosity sends the always-unstable Courtney/Crystal to seek revenge at Cash Creek. Thinking "I was the reason she decided to take off," Skylar follows. There, "betrayed, angry, scared, ashamed, and terrified," Skylar makes a surprising discovery.
Tense, believable, and action-packed, made more vibrant by Stevens’ sense of place.