A family home hides generations of secrets.
The estate Lucy Evans leaves to her great-niece, Justine, includes a lakeside house, a portfolio of $150,000, and a composition book in which Lucy recorded events from the summer of 1935. Lucy’s great-grandfather, who co-founded Williamsburg, Minnesota, with other escapees from the coal mines of Wales, built the summer house. By the time Lucy writes in her notebook, she’s been living there alone since the death of her older sister, Lilith—Justine's grandmother—three years earlier. Lucy wants Justine to know the truth about the disappearance of her and Lilith's 6-year-old sister, Emily, many years earlier. Their pious father, who revered innocence; their overly protective mother, who slept in Emily’s bed every night and didn’t want her out of her sight; and the rebellious, aptly named Lilith all find echoes in a parallel narrative about Justine's life. Deciding to do what she swore she’d never do, Justine uproots her two daughters from San Diego and the only home they’ve known to escape her manipulative, needy lover and claim her inheritance after Lucy’s death. Justine’s mother, who, as Lilith’s daughter, is just as free a spirit as her mother was, spent most of her life shaking the dust of a series of towns off her feet and dragged her daughter along with her for years. Now Justine’s chance to own a family home—even though she’s visited it just once—promises to provide the stability she never knew as a child. But she’s unprepared for life in a cold, musty house in a cold, isolated area with only two neighbors, an unsettling pair of elderly brothers who played their parts in a tragedy that threatens to repeat itself with Justine’s daughters.
Young’s intricately wrought family drama tarries over details of time, place, and emotion as it gradually reveals her debut’s tragic core.