Stuey and his best friend, Elly Rose, both 9, share a birthday and love of the wild woods until a discovery rips them apart, landing each in a world from which the other has disappeared.
Before he died, Gramps, Stuey’s grandfather, showed him where the woods have overgrown the swanky, country-club golf course Stuey’s white great-grandfather, a former bootlegger, built. He disappeared there long ago, while embroiled in an argument with the Jewish district attorney investigating him, their mutual hatred fueled by anti-Semitism and class bias. Stuey lives in the old family home with his artist mother, who’s opposed to selling the woods to a developer. He meets Elly Rose when her family, new arrivals, invites them over. Like Stuey, she’s explored the woods, discovering a hollow clump of dead trees, the deadfall, where each has heard voices whispering. The two steal away to the woods, spin stories, and grow a unique friendship. They’re soul mates. But when Stuey shares an ugly secret that touches both families, Elly Rose vanishes and his world changes: Once allies, her bereaved parents now support leveling the woods. Without Stuey, Elly Rose’s world changes for the worse, too. Each longs to reconnect, but how? Shy Stuey and just-short-of-bossy Elly Rose are likable, their friendship believable and moving. Infused with the magic of the unknown, the eerie wilderness entices them, and readers, inside.
An intensely atmospheric ghost story and elegy for a vanished world: spellbinding. (author’s note) (Paranormal adventure. 8-12)