Crooked River by Valerie Geary (William Morrow, October 2014)
After the death of their mother, fifteen year old Sam McAlister and her ten year old sister Ollie move from Eugene, Oregon to a rural farm where their father, known as Bear, lives in a teepee in the meadow where he raises bees and sleeps under the stars. Sam is used to spending summers with her father, but Ollie never did. Ollie has not spoken since the death of their mother, something that happened after their aunt died several years earlier; unknown to Sam, Ollie sees what she calls Shimmering, the spirits of those who have died, and not understanding what she sees often frightens the young girl. Shortly after the two arrive in Bear’s meadow, the body of a young woman washes up on the shore. Bear becomes an immediate suspect, but Sam knows in her heart he wouldn’t hurt anyone intentionally, and Ollie knows from the Shimmering that something evil is out there, closer than the sisters know, an evil that has been lurking and festering for many years, an evil that can destroy the McAlisters if left unchecked. Told in distinctive alternating voices, Sam and Ollie tell their stories, the story of their past, the story of their present and hint at the possibility of their futures as Sam is on the verge of being a young woman and Ollie on the verge of being a teenager and all the changes that comes with that. The Shimmering that follows Ollie is used effectively and takes the “ghost story” to a new level as the psychological tension stays high in this fast paced narrative that will also allow readers hearts’ to ache for these two young girls who are, at the same time, more lost than they realize and not nearly as lost as others see them. Crooked River is a strong debut that combines strong characters coming of age, a murder and a touch of other worldliness with a natural setting into a taut thriller.