I am a suburban girl. I like the anonymity of the city. There is an abundance of things to do, but one can enjoy them cocooned in their own little bubble. With the exception of Facebook everyone doesn’t know what is going on in your life. There is sort of an insular feeling to daily life. That insular feeling is not always found in small towns. The adage that in a small town everyone knows what everyone else is true. There is nothing quite so insidious and destructive as a small town secret.
Nine years ago Rachel Salonen and Jeb Cullen were soul mates–deeply, irrevocably in love. Until the night two young women went missing from a party in the woods. One was found raped, beaten and pregnant with no memory of what happened. The other is still missing. A small mountain community was torn apart and a young relationship shattered when nineteen-year-old Jeb was arrested for the heinous crime, and Rachel was forced to help put the man she loved behind bars. Now, nine years later, Rachel believes she’s finally put the past to rest when her sister dies suddenly in a fire and she’s made guardian of her adopted niece. A child, she learns, who was conceived that terrible night of violence, a child whose DNA was used to convict Jeb. And when Jeb is unexpectedly released from max security, Rachel sees that the past has only just begun… … Because Jeb has come straight home to Snowy Creek. To prove his innocence, reclaim his life, his home. And to meet the daughter he learned about in prison. A daughter Rachel will do anything to protect. And when the town turns violently on Jeb, Rachel will once again be forced to take sides. This time she chooses with her heart. But her decision could cost everything she holds dear–including her niece’s life. Because someone in town will do anything to keep the truth buried…even kill.
On the surface this is Rachel and Jeb’s story. Underneath it is really about the town and what the town leaders will do to protect the chosen ones. It is also Rachel’s story. For an almost ten-year stint in prison, Jeb is surprisingly well-adjusted. It is Rachel’s world, and that of the town, that is thrown on its ear by Jeb’s reappearance. Rachel and Jeb do not have an easy road to travel. They have come no-where near addressing the issues of the past. Even before Rachel’s damming testimony there were issues between the two. In fact, it is those issues that lead to the ultimate accusations against Jeb. Rachel also has to adjust to the loss of her sister and suddenly becoming a mother to her nine-year old niece. These major changes in Rachel’s life and the compressed timeline, the entire novel takes place over little over a week, make this a fast paced, almost frenetic read; in a good way. You are part of Rachel’s journey as she adjusts to her new reality.
This reality is enhanced by White’s writing style that is characterized by lush descriptions. Her vivid imagery brings to life the events in Rachel’s life, Snowy Creek, the surrounding forest, and mountains. Having lived through recent western forest fires, I could easily envision her tinder dry landscape and smell smoke in the air. This level of detail provides a richness to the story as the reader becomes one with the descriptive setting. The descriptions never tumble into too much or tediousness. The landscape becomes an integral part of the story. Every image has a defined place in the story and is used to move the narrative forward.
Not to be outdone, the characters are more than able to hold their own. There is more to each and every one of them than the typical small town stereotype. While the story builds on that idea, the characters and story take a fresh approach. There are several scenes that the antagonists could have devolved into caricatures of Mean Girls. However, White’s deft writing style gives each character life and depth, even if there are those you don’t like very much.
White has created a multi-layered setting, with a variety of well-developed characters that will resonate with readers. The descriptive imagery and desire to know more about how the town recovers from the events in this novel will keep readers interested in the planned installments of the series. The ripples of the events in Pieces of You will linger long into the future in word and mind. I know I’m awaiting Annie’s story. I know there is more to learn about the town and these characters and look forward to continuing the journey.