A traumatized abductee returns to his family after having been missing for three years.
Eleven-year-old Sam Walsh was on his way to the mall with his best friend, Josh, when he was abducted by a stranger from his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and taken across the state to Anniston, where he was severely physically and mentally abused. Three years later he returns to his family, seemingly healthy, but as the months go by, the trauma slowly reveals itself as perceived by two narrators: Josh and Sam's older sister, Beth. Sam's return becomes a national media story, and Beth, now a senior in high school, struggles to reidentify herself in the face of new attention from her classmates and the overwhelming upheaval of reconnecting with her lost brother. Josh, struggling to understand his own sexuality, becomes the one person Sam trusts with the discomforting, horrific stories of what happened to him while he was gone. The whole story unfolds in a fast-paced, near-cinematic sweep of Alabama heat, religion, and family drama. Wilson also captures the diversity of one of Alabama’s larger urban centers: though Sam, Beth, and Josh are white, Beth’s friends are African-American and Latina, and the one friend that Sam made while abducted is African-American, to name a few. Readers may find themselves flipping quickly through the Beth narrative to discover the heart of what happened to Sam.
A fast-paced yet complex and heart-rending read. (Fiction. 14-18)