Fleeing Atlanta and an emotionally abusive marriage, Imogene McBride is heading west with her precocious, beautiful teenage daughter, Cora, when their car breaks down in the tiny North Texas town of Agatite. While her mother sits out its repair on a bench on the courthouse lawn, Cora wanders off to buy ice cream, enters a drugstoreùand disappears without a trace. Initially, believing Cora is playing a prank, an agitated Imma storms the drugstore and then the sheriffÆs office demanding answers. When answers donÆt come, she returns to the park bench to wait, her annoyance turning to fear, and then obsession.
So begins ImmaÆs vigil and the classic first novel of ReynoldsÆs Sandhill Chronicles, a timeless testament to place and character. As her waiting stretches from days and weeks into years, Imma becomesùas the town eccentric if not madwomanùa pivotal institution in Agatite and the lives of its inhabitants.
Most affected by ImmaÆs obsession is Sheriff Ezra Holmes, a widower who has kept his emotional life in check since the death of his beloved wife. Now his controlled life is disrupted by the woman on the bench, whose presence compels and arouses Ezra in ways mysterious even to himself. As he works to unravel the mystery of CoraÆs disappearance, a bond develops between the aging sheriff and the eccentric woman who brings Ezra both new hope and forces him to confront his own pain.
An absorbing blend of mystery, psychological thriller, and character study, this tale of one womanÆs obsession and the spell it casts is utterly unforgettable.
[An] engrossing first novel. [Reynolds] knows how to create and sustain tension without resorting to sensationalism. His book, like its protagonist, has a stubborn integrity that you canÆt help admiring. [ImmaÆs] metamorphosis . . . is absorbing.
ùNew York Times