In this debut novel, Burke tells the story of a daughter’s imprisonment and a mother fighting for her freedom.
In 1987 Vermont, high school junior Christine Bancroft hangs out with “the stoner crowd”—“morons,” as she thinks of them. They include Megan, who, one night, goes off with a guys from the local paper mill and leaves Christine stranded in the next room with no ride home. Christine lives with her mother, Lynne, although their relationship has been strained since Lynne allowed her boyfriend, Frank, to move in with them. As Lynne fights with Christine’s father, Mark, about child support payments, the teen meets and later moves in with a local cocaine dealer named Jimmy Connell. One night, police turn up and discover an ounce of coke in Jimmy’s apartment, leading to his and Christine’s arrests. At the station, she learns that Eddie Dugan, the son of the state’s attorney, has died of a drug overdose—and that Jimmy was his supplier. Ray Dugan wants to throw the book at them, and Christine ends up being detained by the state for an indefinite period of time. It will take all Lynne can muster to get her daughter released—but how long can Christine hold on? Burke’s prose is vivid and moody, as when she describes the arcade where Christine and her friends hang out: “Then the place lit up, or lit up as much as it was going to. It was still a hole, with a worn-out linoleum floor, scarred paneling, and fluorescent lights spazzing from the crumbly ceiling.” The narrative is a slow-boiling legal tale in which Christine’s situation becomes increasingly dire, and it renders in great detail the seemingly impenetrable layers of state custody in which a minor can find herself. That said, the book is easily 100 pages too long; it takes its time getting started, and then lingers too long at many points along the way. Burke’s fine writing and characterization make any given page compelling, but as they stack up, readers may be left feeling as trapped as her plucky protagonist.
A deftly written but overlong tale of a troubled teen’s incarceration.