Treadway’s (Lacy Eye, 2015, etc.) thoughtful mystery explores the aftermath of a young girl’s murder and the effects her absence has on those closest to her.
Joy’s body is found a month after she goes missing and was presumed drowned. Her parents and best friend, already in mourning, are now faced with the additional fact that she was strangled. When the interim police chief arrests one of the few black men in town because of a single witness, the consequences take their toll on everyone: the accused, his lover, the chief’s daughter and her husband, and Joy’s best friend. Told out of chronology and through different characters' voices, with sections titled “Before,” “After,” and, finally, “During,” the novel steadily composes a poignant portrait of Joy fragment by fragment, but despite being the center of the narrative, she is not the central character. The focus is more clearly on her friends and family, exploring how they are able to find redemption and peace as they come to terms with their loss. Though it can be read as a mystery, the book is more truly a set of complex character sketches revealing deep flaws and human weaknesses but also examining how people live with their most devastating mistakes. The secondary theme of society’s casual racism seems timely, and Treadway does a good job gently exposing the divide that still exists in our country, especially at times of high tension. In the end, this is a novel about relationships and the conflicts between friends, parents and children, husbands and wives that we all must navigate every day. The murder is just a catalyst.
Nuanced, probing, and honest. Well worth a read.