Return to Bone Tree Hill

15 July 2009

Return to Bone Tree Hill
by Kristin Butcher
Published by Thistledown Books
Review by Marie Powell Mendenhall
$12.95 ISBN: 1-897235-58-4

This young adult mystery opens with Jessica Lawler’s recurring nightmare: she is 12 years old again, and she can see her friends Charlie and Amanda fighting.

Charlie is shaking Amanda and he won’t let go. Jessica picks up Charlie’s shovel and swings it. Then Charlie is lying on the ground, his hair matted with blood…

At 18, Jessica returns from Australia to visit her grandmother in Victoria, BC, where she grew up. She discovers Charlie went missing on the same day she contracted meningitis. With her memories clouded by illness, Jessica has to wonder: Is the dream true? Did she kill him?

With the help of her best friend Jilly, Jessica pieces together the puzzle of Charlie’s disappearance. The bantering friendship between the two girls and the lingering guilt that drives Jessica are believable and well-developed.

Twists and turns lead the story in several unexpected directions. Symbols like the tree and that well-known Canadian icon, the snow globe, also play a role. Following hunches and clues, the girls uncover community secrets along with Jessica’s memories.

Kristen Butcher unravels the mystery with a writing style that brings out the nightmare atmosphere and draws the reader into the action. For example, she describes the tree with its “branches splayed like outstretched fingers, holding the surrounding countryside close” amid the “sun-bleached stalks of rye grass waving their long spears like vigilant sentries.”

Butcher was born in Winnipeg, and now lives in Campbell River, BC. The former teacher has written 14 books.


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