Announcing our Top 20 Books of 2022

Sycamore: Book summary and reviews of Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor

Sycamore

by Bryn Chancellor

Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor X
Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

An award-winning writer makes her debut with this mesmerizing page-turner in the spirit of Everything I Never Told You and Olive Kitteridge.

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. 

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. This is a movingly written, multivoiced novel examining how one tragic circumstance can sow doubt about fundamental things; as one character succinctly asks, "Do we really know anyone?" The author ends her novel with a transporting vision of community, connection, and forgiveness." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. This gripping debut is a must for readers of literary fiction with an over-the-top final twist." - Library Journal

"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

"Though the author comes up with a deft, plausible resolution to her complicated narrative, it's not enough to save this overwritten effort." - Kirkus

"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

"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 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

"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

"In Sycamore, Bryn Chancellor writes young women so closely, so intimately - every rich corner of their lives-we see too clearly the dream that has captured them all: they think they have plenty of time. It's troubling and tender ... This is a wonderful debut novel." - Ron Carlson

This information about Sycamore was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

BethAnne

The Miscues of Friendship
A wonderfully written debut novel about friendships, families and maturity. Poor Jess, she was naïve and oblivious to notice the personalities of the characters around her.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Bryn Chancellor

Bryn Chancellor has an MFA in fiction from Vanderbilt University and teaches at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her story collection When Are You Coming Home? won the 2014 Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and her short fiction has appeared in a range of publications, including Gulf Coast, Blackbird, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, and Phoebe. She was also awarded the 2014 Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award in fiction, and literary fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

More Author Information

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more literary fiction...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    Bewilderment
    by Richard Powers
    In 2019, Richard Powers won the Pulitzer Prize for The Overstory, a sprawling novel whose characters...
  • Book Jacket: I'm the Girl
    I'm the Girl
    by Courtney Summers
    YA author Courtney Summers doesn't believe in shielding her teenage readers from the world's darkest...
  • Book Jacket: They're Going to Love You
    They're Going to Love You
    by Meg Howrey
    Teenage Carlisle lives with her mother in Ohio, but their relationship has never felt particularly ...
  • Book Jacket: The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    by Isaac Blum
    That irreplaceable feeling of everyone knowing your name. The yearning to be anonymous. Parents ...

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Our Missing Hearts
    by Celeste Ng

    From the author of Little Fires Everywhere, a new novel about a mother’s unbreakable love in a world consumed by fear.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

W N, W Not

and be entered to win..

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.
Who Said...

A library is a temple unabridged with priceless treasure...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.