Welcome back to the second day of my own personal little Edgar Awards. Yesterday I ruled out Matt Haig's nominated novel The Humans, which I found to be an excellent novel but questioned it's inclusion as an Edgar nominee because the plot lacked any kind of mystery or suspense that the awards are known for.
The next nominee in the Best Novel line up is previous Edgar Award recipient Lori Roy's novel, Until She Comes Home. Set in 1958 Detroit, Until She Comes Home is the tale of a tight-knit, traditional community of housewives who find themselves in an unstable, changing world. When a local developmentally disabled woman disappears and a black woman is found murdered, the changes of the outside world threaten to destabilize their own traditional community...is the murderer one of their own? One woman knows the truth. But fear and social pressure prevents her from coming forward. Will more women die?
As a period piece, Until She Comes Home does a marvelous job of recreating the shaky ground of the late 1950s Detroit in the shadow of the Civil Rights Era. Middle class white America was tenuously hanging on to traditional ideals that were already in the past, but many didn't realize this yet. The result was a perpetually confused state for millions of "Main Street" Americans. They simply didn't understand the social constructs that were on the cusp of crumbling around them. Roy admirably evokes this America.
Unfortunately, it ends there. Her characters are simply a part of lush background, never quite achieving a life of their own. Without the characters coming to life, it is difficult to become invested in the suspense of the story. Further complicating matters were numerous (!) abrupt transitions in character points of view, making it challenging to follow the narrative at times.
In the end, the novel is worth reading for cultural and historical evocations it richly brings to the page, but it doesn't have every element necessary to be deserving of the Best Novel Award.
Tomorrow, I'll be taking a look at one of the best books of 2013 and Edgar Award nominee, Sandrine's Case.