It is Christmas afternoon and Peter Martin gets an unexpected phone call from his parents, asking him to come round. It pulls him away from his wife and children and into a bewildering mystery.
He arrives at his parents house and discovers that they have a visitor. His sister Tara. Not so unusual you might think, this is Christmas after all, a time when families get together. But twenty years ago Tara took a walk into the woods and never came back and as the years have gone by with no word from her the family have, unspoken, assumed that she was dead. Now she's back, tired, dirty, dishevelled, but happy and full of stories about twenty years spent travelling the world, an epic odyssey taken on a whim.
But her stories don't quite hang together and once she has cleaned herself up and got some sleep it becomes apparent that the intervening years have been very kind to Tara. She really does look no different from the young woman who walked out the door twenty years ago. Peter's parents are just delighted to have their little girl back, but Peter and his best friend Richie, Tara's one time boyfriend, are not so sure. Tara seems happy enough but there is something about her. A haunted, otherworldly quality. Some would say it's as if she's off with the fairies. And as the months go by Peter begins to suspect that the woods around their homes are not finished with Tara and his family... -Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads
How have I been missing out on Graham Joyce for so long?? He had me hooked just paragraphs into this book, and it only got better from the first chapter. I loved all the characters and thought all of their actions and reactions to be completely believable. The story is told from various points of view and all of them built upon each other perfectly while still having entirely distinctive voices.
This is not a young adult novel, but since so much time is spent in flashbacks to Peter, Richie, and Tara's teenager years, some chapters are told from the perspective of Peter's teenage son, and there's a chance that Tara herself may be as young as she looks (or is she?), it really kind of works as one. If you've ODed on supernatural fluff and are looking for something more substantial, this might be a perfect fit.