“All stories need watchers. Otherwise, it’s like they never happened.” This quote from The Distant Dead by Heather Young has stayed with me – as has the haunting, desolate backdrop for the story. As I read the book, I was a watcher who was drawn into the lives of all of the characters and their choices. The setting is Nevada’s desert hills and I could picture it vividly through Young’s excellent writing.
Sal, a middle school orphan, lives with his ‘off the grid’ uncles on family land. (Sal is the heart of this story and I hoped for good outcomes because of him.) Nora Wheaton is a social studies teacher who cares for her ailing father. (Both of them love the history of the Paiute Native Americans.) Adam Merkel is a former university professor and the new middle school math teacher. (Quiet, somewhat odd and a loner.) The book reveals their lives bit by bit as the story progresses and the complexity of each character develops so perfectly that I often reread passages just to enjoy them a little longer.
As the story begins, Sal discovers a burned body in the hills and by the end of the day, everyone learns that it is the new math teacher. From that point on, the story is a murder mystery – but not one of those action-packed thrillers – more like a slow, simmering suspense story that reveals facts bit by bit. And I was not able to put the book down!!!
I don’t want to give away any of the story, but if you love excellent writing, real depth of characters and thought-provoking reads, DO READ THIS BOOK! I am reluctant to turn it back in, because I almost want to go back and read it again to see what nuances I discover in a second reading! I found The Distant Dead to be a WONDERFUL book!