Page Count 352
Publication date April 2021
When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again.
Abi’s disappearance cracks open the façade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi’s family, there are questions to be asked – of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father – both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him.
Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark – the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones….
Tall Bones (also published as ‘Where The Truth Lies’) is the usual fare; deeply religious, small town America with the unfortunately familar veins of racism and homophobia exacerbated by an over zealous pastor.
The opening chapter of Tall Bones is very stilted. Bailey seems to throw the plot at the reader as quickly as possible in short, emotionless sentences.
The pressure to hook the reader early appears to have overridden any natural flow to the writing, or perhaps it was intended to impact- either way i found it noticeably disjointed. Whether this changed throughout the novel or I just became accustomed to it I’m not sure.
Told in third person before and after the disappearance of Abigail Blake, we follow the lives of her brothers, parents and best friend Emma as they seek to uncover secrets whilst concealing their own.
I felt Tall Bones lacked in emotion a lot of the time, there’s a bleak desperation to the Blake family that left the characters wooden and slightly hollow. The mystery of Abigail’s disappearance and the frequent introduction of lesser curiosities kept me reading.
Whilst Tall Bones doesn’t weave a particularly original story I still much enjoyed reading it. The righteous fog that obscures the minds of these fictional small town folk and their refusal to acknowledge the consequences of it is nicely balanced by the few decent characters in this novel. A reminder of how important community is and hope for the growing acceptance we see in the world today.
I read the Tall Bones on a grey and rainy Sunday morning befitting of the tone Bailey set. Read if you enjoy Amy Engel or Emma Cline.