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When Ben and Alex were 13, Ben’s 17 year-old sister, Misty, had disappeared, believed to have run away. Not long after this happened, Alex’s mom had taken he and Janet and left their father, left town, left BC. Alex had never contacted Ben again – a fact Alex was not proud of. Now it is 20 years later, and an out and adult Alex finds himself confronted with the confused emotions he had as a pre-adolescent boy. Unresolved feelings for Ben, hatred for his father, resentment toward his sister and mom.
What ends up being the driving force of the story, is the unsolved disappearance of Misty. Coinciding with Alex’s return to town is the discovery of Misty’s car in a nearby swamp, where it’s apparently been all these years. We discover that Angela, Ben and Misty’s mother, has been completely obsessed with finding out what happened to her. For the whole 20 years. This has left Ben, who has remained in town, to try his best to deal with his mom while also barely registering on her emotional radar. Angela wonders if being a journalist, perhaps Alex can check around for any new leads that have come from locating the car. When Alex hears some barely distinguished words, such as “Didn’t mean to” coming from the lips of his barely lucid father, he’s indeed convinced to ask around. After all, this could also lead to a much more interesting, and possibly notable, piece of journalism. Alex experiences a somewhat stilted reunion with Ben, but as he stays in town and the two men begin investigating what the discovery of Misty’s car may mean, the two of them are able to begin a tentative unraveling and healing of past hurts – shared and otherwise.
As a mystery this is a good one. The remote British Columbia setting sets the stage for some stark, cold, examination into the hearts and souls of the characters. The town is located along the Canadian Highway of Tears, where many women went missing over a period of several decades. There is a doleful and somewhat foreboding undertone to the whole setting and mood, which works well with the mystery aspect and possible answer to what may have happened to Misty.
This book is also a rich examination of the human spirit. How we can tend to live in the past, yet, how as children we may not really see what is happening all around us. As adults, it’s all too easy to let opportunity slide by, to stay in a comfort zone. As Alex reacquaints himself with his father, Janet, Angela, and Ben, he discovers so much about himself. The romance is not the obvious storyline here, but it is definitely palpable, always there, just out of reach at times, but there. In fact, Alex and Ben don’t really have much to say to one another until nearly the halfway mark. Ben has chosen to remain in BC, while Alex had not returned before the present. Their reasons are complex, yet simple. Their journey in this story is remarkable, and their relationship is hard won.
I want to point out that Alex is not a contemptable character - at all! Quite the opposite. I liked him very much and was touched by his (if at first reluctant) care and concern for the people around him. His behavior 20 years earlier was that of a confused and emotionally torn teenage boy. His current situation and reestablished relationships guide him to truly admirable and life-changing actions.
Chris Scully is a new-to-me author and I have happily started reading my way through her backlist.
The book is set in rural Canada, and the writing is detailed enough to paint a vivid picture of the area without being tedious. The homes and lives of the characters felt authentic, and I found myself pulled into the storyline, rather than just waiting for the plot to move along to advance the romance. The story follows Alex, a journalist who has returned home as his father is dying, and his childhood best friend Ben. Ben's sister went missing when the boys were children, and Alex finds himself getting involved in the (decidedly grassroots) investigation that still surrounds her disappearance. There are flashback sequences throughout, which feel real and true to the earlier time period they're set in, during the boys' childhoods, and give context and depth to the relationships between the characters and the central mystery that develops as Alex uncovers more details about his family's past and their connection to a long-missing girl, Ben's sister.
Alex, whose POV we experience the story through, is closed-off and hard to like at first, but his character is written well enough that it is easy to understand where he's coming from and why he grew up to be the way he did. And Ben! In the flashbacks, he is the kind of boy so sweet you can't bear the idea of him ever getting hurt. As an adult, he's equally compelling, and the way that the relationship progressed between the two men felt real, and not rushed or forced.
This book is not overly steamy and the romance is not the sole focus of the book, but it's still incredibly satisfying. There's a depth and believability in the connection between Alex and Ben, and I found myself fully committed to their relationship and rooting for them to end up together.
This is one of the best-written romance novels I have ever read, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who's a fan of romance or mystery.
I have read many of Chris Scully's books, always a treat.
Most recent customer reviews
I’ve never tried this author, in fact never had her on my radar even. But this cover caught my eye and after seeing a great early review I decided to jump...Read more
I've only read one other book by Chris Scully, but Back to You made it pretty clear that I need to seek out more of her...Read more
I was hooked on Back to You from the very start. Going home and having past demons come back to haunt you is a premise that gets me every time.Read more