Rating: 4.5 out of 5
18-year-old Grace Barnett has led a quiet, unassuming, mediator life on the Virginian peninsula of Back Creek. That is, until she witnesses the suicide of Tommy White on the Creek, and her five-years-absent older sister Lillian shows up at Tommy’s funeral, pregnant—the same day that their mother leaves them with no promises to return. With a pregnant, self-centered sister and a withdrawn alcoholic father, Grace knows that she must stay strong and keep what’s left of their family together.
Her only respite is snatched moments drinking beer with Cal, the young man with Vietnam War ghosts who lives in a boat across the Creek. As Grace grows closer to Cal and their family slowly begins to heal, she realizes that she is stronger than she thinks, and that only she is able to piece together the long shattered bits of her family and possibly emerge victorious, a changed and better person.
BACK CREEK is, in short, a pure slice of heaven. If Sarah Dessen were to write a languorous and luxurious coming-of-age novel set in unpredictable estuary waters, the result would be something like this. Goetsch’s language rings with an assuredness that belies the ten years she spent writing BACK CREEK. That, combined with a memorable cast of characters and a subtly right mixture of everything necessary to a good novel—family secrets, a splash of romance, terror, and self-triumph—makes BACK CREEK one of the most moving books I have read this year.
The protagonist, Grace, acts and thinks with a maturity far beyond her age; the deliberate, drama-less, yet innocent way in which she responds to her predicament draws us in and makes us empathize with her. I use the term “drama-less” because, while her family situation is certainly not good, Grace deals with the issues presented to her in a purposeful manner devoid of nauseating amounts of self-pity typical in many young adult coming-of-age novels. Grace’s mental and emotional strength, and her determination to remain optimistic and try to keep her family together, make me respect her highly.
The setting of Back Creek is one in which I would love to live in another life. Leslie Goetsch skillfully places us in the midst of the deliberate politeness and quirkiness of a backwaters town, and there we want to remain. No aspect is overdone: you’re at peace and yet you’re intrigued there.
All in all, BACK CREEK is an understated book that deserves to be more publicized, to be read more. Do consider checking out Leslie Goetsch’s fantastic novel when you want a comfortable yet heartwarming read.
Want more? Yes, definitely.
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thank you, Harrison and Leslie, for allowing me to review this fantastic book!