On the last ordinary day of her life, Abby Bennett feels like the luckiest woman alive. But everyone knows that luck doesn’t last forever. As her husband, Nick, and daughter, Lindsey, embark on a weekend camping trip to the Texas Hill Country, Abby looks forward to having some quiet time to herself. She braids Lindsey’s hair, reminds Nick to drive safely and kisses them both goodbye. For a brief moment, Abby thinks she has it all—a perfect marriage, a perfect life—until a devastating storm rips through the region, and her family vanishes without a trace.
When Nick and Lindsey are presumed dead, lost in the raging waters, Abby refuses to give up hope. Consumed by grief and clinging to her belief that her family is still alive, she sets out to find them. But as disturbing clues begin to surface, Abby realizes that the truth may be far more sinister than she imagined. Soon she finds herself caught in a current of lies that threaten to unhinge her and challenge everything she once believed about her marriage and family.
With a voice that resonates with stunning clarity, Barbara Taylor Sissel delivers a taut and chilling mystery about a mother’s love, a wife’s obsession and the invisible fractures that can shatter a family.
You had wine bottled and gorgeous labels made from your book cover image. What was the inspiration behind this wonderful idea?
Celebration! I work with four critique partners. In addition to the diligent vetting of each other’s work, we’re each other’s cheerleaders. That support is really invaluable, because writing is mostly done alone; there’s a lot of waiting: to hear whether something has sold, and once it has, and it’s published, then you wait for reviews, and after it’s been out a while, you wait to hear about sales. By the time I signed my contract with MIRA for EVIDENCE OF LIFE, and a second novel, I’d been sending my manuscripts around for a while, a long, waiting while, and my partners were with me every step of the way keeping the faith and ladling on the encouragement. It took so much patience and persistence, and when the sky opened, and the miracle happened, I wanted the five of us to be together when I announced my news. We meet on alternate Fridays, and it so happened I was hosting that week, which made it perfect! I iced a bottle of champagne, hiding it in my laundry room, then once everyone was settled and chatting, I chose a moment to retrieve it and show it off. I didn’t have to say a word, not once they realized what they were looking at. I’ll never forget their expressions. They were priceless, just priceless. It was after I poured each of us a glass that one of my partners, NYT best-selling author, Joni Rodgers, whose husband, Gary, is a home hobbyist winemaker, said, out of the blue, that she ought to have him bottle a wine and label it with the book cover to commemorate what was a truly auspicious event! I thought it was such a unique and creative idea, and I was so thrilled by it, but I never could have imagined the actual end product would turn out to be so impressive. Joni designed the labels, and they are truly gorgeous! Plus, the wine itself, a pinot gris, is delicious. From start to finish, the whole enterprise was such an unexpected, fun and lovely gift, and one that I will always treasure.
When I asked Joni what inspired her to suggest bottling the wine, here is what she said in her own wonderful words: “Barbara’s artistic integrity and strength of spirit have so inspired me over the years. Seeing this wonderful novel break through and find the right publishing home was cause for great celebration. Winemaking is an alchemy of patience, creative energy and technical skill, the perfect metaphor for what it takes to produce a beautiful book.”
“Oh honey.” Abby squeezed Lindsey’s shoulder. Scott Kaplan was her first serious crush, the first boy to truly trouble her heart, and Abby was both exasperated and pained by the experience. She wished she could say how little Scott would matter in the long run, but she didn’t dare. “Did you bring a rubber band?”
Lindsey handed it over along with a bit of taffeta ribbon, pink with a narrow green stripe. “I don’t see why I have to go on this trip when Jake doesn’t.”
“He has finals,” Abby said.
“Oh sure,” Lindsey scoffed. “Like he’d choose cramming for finals over camping in the Hill Country. Finals aren’t until next month anyway.”
Abby kept silent.
Lindsey said, “If you ask me he’s not going because he doesn’t want Dad on his case about law school again.”
“Can you blame him?” Abby asked.
Lindsey didn’t answer. She was as tired of Nick and Jake’s continual bickering as Abby was. Nick was so much harder on Jake than he was on Lindsey. His preference was obvious, hurtful, but if Abby brought it up, Nick denied treating Lindsey differently. “You don’t understand about boys,” he would say.
“Oh, I think I would understand perfectly. He’s exactly like you,” Abby would say.
Stubborn, she meant. Each one was determined to have it his own way.
“You know I’m right, Mom,” Lindsey said.
“At least you won’t have to listen to them argue.”
“Maybe I’ll go to law school.”