Fletcher is a first-time novelist of exceptional sensitivity, able to capture essential moments, so intimate that they become personal. With a keen eye, time and place take on substance, familiarity.
Pregnant with her first child, the sights and sounds of childhood come alive once more for Evangeline Green, filling the long days of waiting. Looking back on her 8th year, the first in a new home after the sudden death of her mother, Evangeline recollects the scenes of childhood, the smells, favorite objects, and a comforting assemblage of oddities that make up a household. Transplanted from Birmingham to rural Wales, city lights and sounds are replaced by country noises, "straw, dung, petrol, the stench of dead water, the tang of wood smoke."
Surrounded by secrets, eccentrics and beloved grandparents, Evangeline's learns of ancient relatives, unexpected people and places, a first, headstrong love and abandonment. Desperate to know more about her father, although forbidden to speak of him, Evie has only a box of scribbling, fragments of handwriting, mementos her mother kept hidden. Gathering bits of fact like treasure, Evie hoards the scraps of paper, hints of a great, if short-lived love affair with a man who passed his bright red curls to his daughter.
Evie has few friends in her new home, save Daniel, a farm hand, and Billy, a disabled man, who lives just out of sight, watching everything. Evie befriends Billy in spite of his reticence, gradually adapting to her strange new life. The small Welsh town roils with gossip and suspicion after the disappearance of Rosie Hughes, a beautiful, privileged girl who would have certainly become Evangeline's rival, had she lived. Someone must be held accountable. Through misguided loyalty, Evie commits an error of judgment, with consequences that will haunt her for years.
No matter how old you grow, there are moments that remain, perfectly etched in time; Fletcher captures such images with perfect clarity, jagged shards once whole, the passage to memory. Near the end, I already miss Evangeline's tart, childish perceptions, her tragic misreading of the right thing to do and the comfort of the natural world that feeds the rhythms of her soul. I miss her incisive observations, her plague of red curls and freckles, her capacity for love, even her mistakes. I hope Susan Fletcher has already begun another novel and that I have the patience to wait. Luan Gaines/2004.