This was another one of those books that I found difficult to fit neatly into a single genre. While the timeline was a bit ambiguous (the chapters alternated between “that summer” and “present day”), there was a strong contemporary fiction vibe with many of the issues explored in the “present day” narrative -- climate change, illegal immigration, racism, politics vs science, etc. – mirroring so closely with so many “hot-button” issues that we as a society are dealing with currently (and have been at the forefront of discussions the past few years). Having said that, there was also a mystery / thriller component to the story that overlapped both timelines, with “the truth” about the defining event that occurred in the past eventually being revealed in the present.
From a genre perspective, I felt that the contemporary piece was quite solid overall, which I guess shouldn’t be too surprising given the author Julie Carrick Dalton’s background as a journalist. This was definitely apparent in the extensive detail with which Dalton was able to present the events around the climate crisis as well as the complexities of the immigration discussion. In all honesty, I personally have not paid much attention to the climate change discussion, I’m not a “science-y” person and a lot of the explanations out there about the topic seem to go over my head — but the way Dalton presented the topic, through the fictional story of Cadie (who later grows up to be an entomologist) and her best friend Daniela, the childhood adventures they have in the forests surrounding their properties, the challenges that arise nearly 30 years later, etc., helped provide some clarity about the climate crisis that I had a struggled to understand reading about the topic via other means. Of course, there’s a lot I still don’t understand about the topic (and probably never will), but the fact that I was able to comprehend as much as I did speaks to the power of fictional story-telling in helping us understand real-life events and situations.
With all that said, what didn’t work as well was the mystery / thriller aspect of the story. I felt that the attempt to craft a compelling thriller was a bit weak, as the plot points were predictable and too easy to figure out. In fact, I actually was able to guess “the truth” quite early on, so when it came time for the big reveal, the surprise element was no longer there. Also, some of the events meant to “explain” the mystery felt a bit forced — as I was reading, it became obvious to me that the strongest parts of the story were those not having to do with the “mystery” thread.
Overall, this was a good story with well-drawn characters. I especially appreciated how the author explored modern day issues in a way that was both respectful and approachable. Of course, no story is perfect and as much as I liked the approach the author took, I also felt that, at times, the various “big topics” covered here were competing with each other for space — especially in the “present day” timeline, the writing was a bit uneven in that there would be large sections about the climate issue, about science and politics, but those parts felt randomly inserted and separate from the other threads. This did affect the flow a little in my opinion, but not to the point of negatively impacting the story.
I’m glad I read this one, as the story was a timely one and I learned things I wasn’t expecting. As this was Dalton’s debut, I look forward to seeing what she brings to the table next.
Received print ARC from Forge Books