Sycamore: A Novel

“Riveting … a movingly written, multivoiced novel examining how one tragic circumstance can sow doubt about fundamental things. … a transporting vision of community, connection, and forgiveness.”
Publishers Weekly starred review and Pick of the Week

“Masterful  … Chancellor digs deep in these pages, unearthing broken hearts, secrets, betrayals, passion and—most impressively—grace. What a joy to find a book that is both propulsive and perfectly composed.”
—Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest

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Available May 9, 2017, from Harper (ISBN: 9780062661098)

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Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. As news of the discovery makes its way around town, Sycamore’s longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, the teenage girl who disappeared suddenly some eighteen years earlier, an unsolved mystery that has soaked into the porous rock of the town and haunted it ever since. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess’s troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility, and a way forward for their lives.

Skillfully interweaving multiple points of view, Bryn Chancellor knowingly maps the bloodlines of a community and the indelible characters at its heart—most notably Jess Winters, a thoughtful, promising adolescent poised on the threshold of adulthood. Evocative and atmospheric, Sycamore is a coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a moving exploration of the elemental forces that drive human nature—desire, loneliness, grief, love, forgiveness, and hope—as witnessed through the inhabitants of one small Arizona town.

Critical Praise

Chancellor’s absorbing first novel begins quietly, quickly gains momentum, and ends explosively. … Shifting deftly between 1991 and 2009, Chancellor spins multiple threads of Jess’s story as it affects everyone, especially Maud. This gripping debut is a must for readers of literary fiction with an over-the-top final twist.
Library Journal

“Interspersed in Chancellor’s meaty, suspenseful debut is Jess’ story of the troubling year (itself preceded by another difficult year) leading up to her disappearance. The author handles this back-and-forth movement well, creating subtle connections among the fleshed-out Sycamore residents that readers will enjoy recognizing while waiting with them to discover the truth about the long-concealed skeleton.”
Booklist (American Library Assocation)

“Rendered with razor sharp clarity, deep empathy, and abiding grace.  Jess Winters belongs on a list of teenage characters with Dorothy Allison’s Bone, Kaye Gibbon’s Ellen Foster and Harper Lee’s Scout.  It is no wonder that for the townspeople, her loss is irrecoverable. This novel hums with emotional intelligence and structural complexity, and has a big old human ache in its heart.”
— Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted

“Bryn Chancellor explores the complexities of a small-town girlhood with insight and compassion. A page-turner and a heart-breaker, Sycamore marks the arrival of a shining new voice.”
— Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow

Sycamore is an amazing showcase for Bryn Chancellor’s great talent, the way she allows each of the various characters to shine on their own, but connects them with such subtlety that their light forms a constellation that maps out the grief, the regrets, and the strength of an entire community. This is a powerful debut novel, one without flaw, and it will slay you.”
— Kevin Wilson, author of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and The Family Fang

“In this masterful performance, Bryn Chancellor explores the loss around which an entire community has calcified with humanity and wisdom. Chancellor digs deep in these pages, unearthing broken hearts, secrets, betrayals, passion and—most impressively—grace. What a joy to find a book that is both propulsive and perfectly composed.”
—Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest

“Bryn Chancellor’s Sycamore instantly reminded me of Tana French’s thrillers: a small, intertwined community, a long-ago crime, the tension and intrigue that won’t stop rippling….Chancellor writes gorgeously, and her story is riveting and real. I love it.”
— Joy Castro, author of Hell or High Water and Island of Bones

“Haunting and elegiac, Bryn Chancellor’s Sycamore masterfully traces the fault lines of trauma and loss that resurface in the wake of a tragedy’s second coming. Chancellor’s multivocal narrative brims with intelligence and insight, and her subtle writing poignantly illuminates the ways in which we are sometimes bound, for better and for worse, by a collective sorrow.”
—Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold Fame Citrus

“Bryn Chancellor’s compelling debut novel, Sycamore, weaves a suspenseful web around a small town in the years following a disappearance. With astute emotional and psychological observations, Chancellor successfully shows the power of the unknown as various individuals explore the many what ifs and imaginings of what really happened.”
— Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life