Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pg. 99: Katie Estill's "Dahlia's Gone"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Katie Estill's Dahlia's Gone.

About the book, from the publisher:
“A promise can change a life. Even a small, casual promise extended without much thought or contemplation.” So learns Sand Williams, who has returned to her childhood home in the Ozarks for a much- needed rest after years of working abroad as a journalist. She and her husband, Frank, a hydrologist who loves caves, have moved into a cabin that Sand inherited from her father on the beautiful Seven Point River. A mile upstream from Sand lives Norah Everston, and the two women couldn’t be more different. The only thing they have in common is the boundary of their land, but when Norah asks Sand to look in on her children when she and her husband go traveling, Sand reluctantly agrees, because she grew up in the Ozarks believing that you helped your neighbor out.

The kids are Timothy and Dahlia, the children of Norah and Lyman by previous marriages. Lyman’s daughter, Dahlia, eighteen and a winsome blonde, is working to raise funds for college, while Norah’s son, Timothy, a big, handsome boy described as “"slow,”" goes to a special class in high school. The teenagers have never fully adjusted to their parents’ marriage, and the family is also divided by the subject of religion and the very strict church that Norah and Timothy faithfully attend. The teenagers have never been left alone before, and Norah, who doesn’t like Sand very much, has asked her to look after them for convenience sake.

Dahlia’s Gone is the story of three remarkable women whose lives are profoundly changed by the murder of Dahlia Everston: Sand, who makes the grisly discovery;, Norah, the victim’s grieving step-mother, who comes to blame Sand for the tragedy;, and Patty Callahan, who leads the investigation of Dahlia’s brutal murder. Patti, the only female deputy in Weleda County, is a woman of secrets, secrets that include her intimate and influential relationship with Sand’s deceased father, who was the owner and publisher of the local newspaper.

This mesmerizing narrative beautifully and suspensefully explores the aftermath of tragedy, and the process of facing the truth. In Dahlia’s Gone, Katie Estill has created brought to life three unforgettable characters whose lives intersect in both dramatic and mysterious ways. Dahlia’s Gone looks unflinchingly at what’s been lost, but in the end this is a story about redemption, the beauty of hope, and the soul-healing friendship that can be forged among women.
Among the praise for Dahlia's Gone:
“Good books do what nothing else in our lives can do-give full expression to the tender and tempestuous depths of our humanity-and Dahlia's Gone is a very good book indeed. There's an expansive sensibility within these pages, a fearless insistence on fusion, the author's extraordinary capacity to blend the global and provincial, the sacred and profane, the introspective and dramatic, that makes Katie Estill rare among American novelists.”
—Bob Shacochis, National Book Award-winning author of Easy in the Islands and The Immaculate Invasion

“In this astonishingly moving novel, Katie Estill takes the pieces of a family, the pieces of a backwater town, the pieces of women’s hard-bitten lives, and sews them together with a fine hand. What was broken is made whole. What cannot be made whole is redeemed. Of this we can be certain: Katie Estill is an inspired writer, this book a thing of passionate beauty.”
—Leigh Allison Wilson, Flannery O'Connor Award-Winning author of From the Bottom Up and Wind: Stories

"In this highly recommended book, a young, beautiful girl is brutally murdered--and the lives of three women are forever changed. . . More than an intriguing mystery, Katie Estill pulls us into the lives of these women who each must find her own way of coping with the tragedy ... Armchair Interview says: This is a story you won't soon forget."
—Peg Brantley
Read an excerpt from Dahlia's Gone, and learn more about the author and her work at Katie Estill's website.

Dahlia's Gone has been nominated for the Hammett Prize by the North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers.

Katie Estill is a graduate of Kenyon College and has an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her first novel, Evening Would Find Me, was published by Joyce Carol Oates's Ontario Review Press.

The Page 99 Test: Dahlia's Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue