Hayden Holland, a white woman living in Brooklyn with her French-Senegalese best friend, Del Chauvet, finds out on her 18th birthday that she has inherited a house from her mother, Ella.
Ella had a mysterious death: She disappeared into the woods of their hometown of Promise, Colorado, a decade ago, never to be seen or heard from since and was declared dead in absentia. Hayden and her father moved away soon after to New York, but problems followed them there. Hayden kept having nightmares and later had to be home-schooled, along with seeing a therapist, after a violent incident with another student at school. Her father, Thomas, lost tenure due in part to his obsession with theories too extreme for his university to support. Hayden visits the old house, along with Del, seeking answers to lingering questions and trying to make sense of the conditions her mother attached to the codicil to her will. Can she fulfill her mother’s wishes while uncovering secrets so long withheld from her? Superfluous prose makes for a long read, although the ending, ironically, is rushed and anticlimactic. Inconsistent and inorganic character reactions mixed with all-too-convenient plot devices make suspension of disbelief difficult.
With a plot that reads like an overstuffed gumbo recipe and heavy and obvious foreshadowing, this ambitious story spends too much time on exposition and not enough on character development. (Fantasy. 14-18)