Tall Bones by Anna Bailey
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....
The town of Whistling Ridge! What a place! A community held captive by the homophobic, racist beliefs of those that hold the power, men in powerful positions: Pastor, Sheriff and Business Tycoon. A God-fearing community being led by a man with extreme views leads this community being torn apart. The younger generation desperate to find some escapism turn to alcohol and drugs in their rebellion. However, these drastic measures produce some devastating consequences, including the disappearance of Abigail, a beloved daughter and friend.
This dark, atmospheric novel explores the power of religion and how bigoted views can cause hatred and violence towards other. Some of the scenes in the novel are not only shocking but hard to read at times. The prejudice and satanic nature of some of the characters caused my blood to boil. The intense anger and hatred in the novel was balanced beautifully with the kindness of other characters and ultimately the theme of love. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time as you never truly knew what was waiting for you on the next page.
I loved the mystery of the disappearance of Abi and how that had an affect on the community. The characters were rich in description and fully came alive on the page. The tension builds, creating a highly addictive read. Bailey continues to evoke different emotions throughout the novel, pushing you to uncomfortable levels at times. For me, it was an emotional rollercoaster.
This haunting and heart wrenching novel was a definite page-turner and one that will stay with me for some time. Many thanks to Alison Barrow at Doubleday for my proof copy of Tall Bones, a very poignant and provocative novel yet such a enjoyable read.
Anna Bailey was born in Bristol in 1995 and spent her childhood in Gloucestershire. She studied Creative Writing at Bath Spa university and wanted to become a journalist, but ended up moving to Colorado and becoming a Starbucks barista instead. In 2018 she returned to the UK, where she enrolled in the Curtis Brown Creative Novel-writing course and wrote her first novel, Tall Bones, inspired by her experience of living in small-town America.