Publish Date: June 1, 2019
“People tended to resent the things they couldn’t escape, even if those things were innocent.” — I’ll Never Tell
What happened to Amanda Holmes?
Twenty years ago, she was found bludgeoned in a rowboat at the MacAllister family’s Camp Macaw. No one was ever charged with the crime.
Now, after their parents’ sudden deaths, the MacAllister siblings return to camp to read the will and decide what to do with the prime real estate the camp occupies. Ryan needs to sell. Margaux hasn’t made up her mind. Mary believes in leaving well enough alone. Kate and Liddie—the twins—have opposing views. And Sean Booth, the groundskeeper, just hopes he still has a home when all is said and done.
But it’s more complicated than a simple vote. The will stipulates that until they unravel the mystery of what happened to Amanda, they can’t settle the estate. Any one of them could have done it, and each one is holding a piece of the puzzle. Will they work together to finally discover the truth, or will their secrets finally tear the family apart?
When I was a kid, summer camps were highlighted in movies, TV shows, and books. Campers experienced things like sleeping in cabins with friends, cool camp counselors, roasting marshmallows over an open fire, camp songs, camp food, water adventures and games. This book brings back that nostalgia for camp.
This story is about an estate, complicated family dynamics and an old unsolved mystery. As Harper Lee says in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family, an’ they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not.” This sums it up for the 5 MacAllister siblings who could not be more different from one another. Returning to the place that you call home can trigger you to think about the past, and coming home transports the MacAllister siblings back to their childhood memories.
Peter MacAllister’s will directs his children to look back at that fateful summer and the one night that changed their lives forever. The will turns the MacAllister sisters into judge and jury, because they must make a unanimous decision on whether their brother Ryan is included in the estate… or not. The difficult choice is a test of the familial bonds and whether 5 very different women can agree on the outcome for their brother. How loyal are the sisters to Ryan? Do they think that he killed Amanda? Does he deserve to be included in their parents estate? Will the MacAllisters sell the camp, or keep it in the family? How much of the past will affect the present? The situation dredges up a lot of differing opinions, stress and resentment among the siblings. Since they all know each others likes, dislikes, bad habits, ticks, and tendencies, this ends up doing more harm to than good.
This book is a well written and steady paced mystery, layered with strong character development and multiple perspectives. I like the way that the story toggled between Amanda’s perspective in the past, and the MacAllister siblings perspective in the present. The family dynamics are so damn complicated and…. relatable. It makes me think of my own family.
My favorite quotes:
“That was the problem with camp. Everywhere and everything was memories. Whether they were your own or other people’s. You couldn’t escape them. The person you were, the person you used to be, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was how others saw you.”
“The heart wants what it wants.”
“What happened in a life that made the difference between being recognizable at forty to your childhood companions or a stranger?”
“Whoever you are, you can be your best self here.”
There are some unique features of this book that really stood out for me: A handwritten map of Camp Macaw is included in the first few pages, and gave me a good visual of the property’s layout. I love drawings in books! A grid with the time, people, and places is filled in after key chapters and helped me track who was where and when on the night that Amanda died. It is a great way to organize the clues.
This book is about family, siblings, love, memories, secrets, money, and of course, a summer camp. I loved it. I was enthralled with the camp, the sibling dynamics, and the suspenseful mystery of whodunit. I was dying to know how the sisters would decide on Ryan’s fate, and whether or not they’d sell the camp. I wanted to binge read it. There were many twists and turns, and surprises sprinkled in.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is my first read of Catherine McKenzie’s work, and definitely not my last. I was very impressed and I’ll be seeking out her other books. Let me know if you recommend any of her other works!
Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.