A young woman unravels a family secret with her 12-year-old sister’s help in Falk’s debut novel.
Twenty-two-year-old Abigail Hartley is living at home with her parents in New York City, and her deadline to either enroll in college classes or move out is fast approaching. The cerebral young woman is indecisive about her next step: “I’m a yellow blip on a black screen and the ten-year-old controlling me is still learning how to play.” The sudden death of her estranged maternal grandmother spurs a desire to look into her shadowy family history. Abigail’s mom refuses to explain why they won’t be going to the funeral, and the young woman realizes that there may be only way for her to uncover what’s really going on: She’ll have to visit her mother’s Georgia hometown. In order to make the trip without her parents’ knowledge, she needs a plan, and she enlists her little sister Maddy’s assistance. Despite their age difference, they have a close and endearingly humorous relationship—one that that forms the emotional heart of Falk’s story. Take Abigail’s observation after the two log some significant bonding time: “ ‘Whoa. T.M.I., Mom.’ I just used a Maddy-ism. We’ve spent so much time together, I think I’ve absorbed her brain—it was small, and delicious.” The sisters’ search eventually leads Abigail to discover some troubled Southern history. Overall, this is a well-paced story that, despite its familiar structure, feels less like a bildungsroman than it does a feel-good fairy tale for young-adult readers. It’s to the book’s credit that it brings to light a particular facet of the history of racism in Georgia, where the majority of the book is set. It’s also revealing that it took such a journey for Abigail, a white character, to learn about racism’s effects on her own family: “racism is far from gone. It may not always be as obvious now as outlawed love or segregated schools, but it’s there.”
An appealing work that combines YA-style tropes with college-age struggles.