The summer of '75 brought a lot of changes to eighteen-year-old Grace Barnett's small-town life. Never really feeling like a part of the group around kids her own age, she felt more content at home on the Creek with her beloved books. Her older sister, Lillian, was the popular and outgoing one, but she's been gone for five years after having a blow-up with their father that no one really talks about.
Early in the summer of '75, Grace was the only witness when a boater fatally crashed into a neighboring dock on the Creek. Everyone, including the investigators, assumed it was an accident, but Grace couldn't shake the feeling that they were wrong. That day started a chain of events that would affect Grace forever. Days later, without so much as a word, her mother left on another of her mysterious trips, but this time it felt more permanent and Grace was left feeling that the responsibility of her family was on her shoulders. To complicate matters, her sister suddenly reappears, obviously with her own troubles, but is unwilling to open up about it. Grace is left to try to mend the rift between her withdrawn father, who is drinking too much, and her sister.
The whole time Grace is walking on eggshells around her family, she is also toying with new feelings and emotions that all girls her age eventually experience. Her closest friend is Cal, a Vietnam War vet that lives on a boat on the other side of the Creek who is rumored to be a little 'different' ever since returning home from the war. Grace's growing feelings for Cal begin to take her over and lead her to places she's never been.
But the most difficult thing Grace is dealing with is her mother's strange behavior and the feeling that she's never coming back - at least not for good. Grace decides to go to her mother's family home in North Carolina to get some answers from her mother and hopefully bring her home.
The premise of BACK CREEK, the Virginia locale and the character of Grace is what initially drew me to this coming of age story. I also liked the year in which it took place. I grew up in the 70's and it was a special time - when you weren't afraid to leave your doors unlocked and life wasn't so complicated - at least it didn't seem like it was. I don't read a lot of Young Adult novels but this is one I didn't want to pass up.
The beautiful, sometimes lyrical phrasing made the book an easy, enjoyable read. The words flowed easily and the pages turned almost by themselves. I really enjoyed Leslie Goetsch's writing in this debut novel very much.
That being said, I will admit to feeling a bit let down with the outcome. That's not to say I didn't like it, I was just expecting a little more. The build-up was there and I was ready for something that I felt didn't quite make it. I feel that perhaps the point the author was ultimately trying to make may have been done with too much subtlety. On the other hand, I liked all of the characters - they were both believable and likable. Back Creek itself was a major character and through Goetsch's words, became a very real place that I could quickly and easily picture in my mind.
In a nutshell, I enjoyed the book very much and would definitely recommend it, especially to younger readers because I do think it carries a good message. Leslie Goetsch is an author that I wouldn't hesitate reading again.
Author: Leslie Goetsch
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Bancroft Press
Published: February 2008