Published March 2020 by Lake Union Publishing
Life is over in an instant for sixteen-year-old Finn Miller when a devastating car accident tumbles her and ten others over the side of a mountain. Suspended between worlds, she watches helplessly as those she loves struggle to survive.
Impossible choices are made, decisions that leave the survivors tormented with grief and regret. Unable to let go, Finn keeps vigil as they struggle to reclaim their shattered lives. Jack, her father, who seeks vengeance against the one person he can blame other than himself; her best friend, Mo, who bravely searches for the truth as the story of their survival is rewritten; her sister Chloe, who knows Finn lingers and yearns to join her; and her mother, Ann, who saved them all but is haunted by her decisions. Finn needs to move on, but how can she with her family still in pieces?
My bookworm coworker recommended this one to me after she read it with her bookclub. She didn't tell me much about it but her enthusiasm convinced me to pick it up without even reading the summary. Which is why I thought seriously about not giving you the summary to this one. I did not see what happened on page forty coming at all!
The Millers are a family teetering on the brink - Jack and Ann are barely holding it together; Ann doesn't know how to handle their teenaged son, Oz; Jack has given up his job to care for Oz; Ann and Chloe are barely on speaking terms; and poor Finn feels a little invisible. Still, Jack thinks a family ski trip is just the thing to bring the family together. Along for the ride is Finn's best friend, Mo; Ann's bestfriend "Aunt" Karen and her husband "Uncle" Bob and daughter Natalie; and Chloe's boyfriend, Vance. The family has no sooner arrived in their striped down camper at their cabin in the mountains when they turn around to leave for dinner. Along the way, they pick up a young man, Kyle, whose car has broken down. He has hardly joined the group when Jack has to swerve to avoid hitting a deer in the road, sliding into a guardrail that gives way.
How to give readers the full picture of what happens to each of the people in that camper for the next couple of days? One of them dies, allowing them to become an omniscient narrator. This allows us to follow Chloe when she follows Vance, despite her mother's protestations, who heads out to find help. It allows us to follow Ann and Kyle when they also head off for help. And it allows us to stay in the camper with the remaining family and friends. It allows us to see the choices that are made. And it allows us to make judgements that Redfearn will make us question later.
Because although the first 100 or so pages of this book seem to be a survival tale, at its heart, this book is a morality tale. Our omniscient narrator forces us to question our opinions, making us consider if one person's choices were better or worse than another's. You think you know, as you're reading the book, what you would do given the same situation, what the morally "right" thing to do would be. But Redfearn will make you rethink that answer. Would you really do the "right" thing if it meant your own family member was more at risk?
And what about the aftermath? How would you heal from what happened? How do you heal yourself mentally and grieve? How much of you can be spared to help everyone else heal? There is a lot to be unpacked here. My coworker's book club read this one and she said they had a great discussion, including about 20 minutes discussing the author's afterword where Redfearn discusses the personal experience that inspired the book. Does the book have flaws? Yes - there are unanswered questions that don't necessarily feel like they were meant to be unanswered, the narrator often appears wise beyond their years, and some things happen that seem entirely improbable. But it kept me racing through it, hoping for the healing and hope that Redfearn delivers on in the end.