A steamy Louisiana bayou is the atmospheric backdrop to a tale about a daughter’s estrangement from her mom, the mother’s long-held guilty secret and a restless ghost’s long-sought closure.
When her dad takes a job overseas, 11-year-old Shelby must stay with the mother who walked out on both of them a year earlier. Deeply resentful and wary of her healer mom’s isolated cabin deep in the swamp, Shelby gets drawn into mysterious doings involving strange notes hidden in glass bottles that hang from a tree near home. Tormented at school, Shelby eventually finds a friend in Gwen, a girl who lives alone in the bayou. Ever more mysterious incidents ensue as Shelby slowly unravels the truth about Gwen, her mother’s involvement with the cryptic messages and Mom’s past. The author serves up the setting well, evoking the sights, sounds and smells of the humid, tangled bayou. She fares less well with the regionalisms, which are delivered inconsistently and sometimes jar. The gently spooky ghost angle is handled nicely with some religious overtones. A very dramatic climax leads to a sweet, satisfying ending with some surprising twists and with reconciliation occurring for several characters.
For readers who like their ghost stories more friendly than terrifying. (Suspense. 9 -12)