"Sycamore" by Bryn Chancellor

"You are here
Dog-ear the page yourself
don't lose your place
For god's sake
don't disappear" 
From the poem 'You Are Here' (Chancellor, 38)

When I attended the Hub City Writers Project Writing In Place Conference  in Spartanburg, South Carolina I had the honor of being introduced to Bryn Chancellor.  "Sycamore" by Bryn Chancellor was one of Oprah's Top 20 Books to Read This Summer. Before I knew the author or the weather 

As I listened to Bryn Chancellor the descriptive words she read from the pages , a whole new world seeped into my imagination. I wanted to know more about this world that Bryn Chancellor was describing and a character who perked my interest who seemed like someone who I could relate to. As I later learned Bryn Chancellor was reading about Jess Winters of whom the central plot revolved around.

"Mom, I'm going out for a walk (it's almost 4:45).  I need to clear my head. I'll be back in a couple hours. Don't worry. Love J-bird." (Chancellor, 39)

The story begins and ends with a mother and daughter, Maud and Jess Winters, beginning a life in the town of Sycamore, Arizona. When I read the book I was transfixed and become invested  with the characters and their background story.  
Bryn Chancellor flashed from past to present intertwining the individual stories of the people of the town and their relationship with Jess Winters. 

"Wait a minute: how heavy is 
The weight of the world?
How much weight can you bear?
I'll wait for your reply" (Chancellor, 198)

The story for me is about how one person's life can have an impact on many others. For me, it is was about how faced with life's burdens we can feel seemingly all alone yet, we are not. The character of Jess Winters echoed a common theme that all the characters  seemed to feel or fear. They all had the fear of being alone.  As you read the story, both the male and female characters feel alone and have to make the choice to whether they want to ask for help. 

As you read the book you gain perspective of how we live our life and if we are truly alone. Every person you come into contact is a piece or an influence that supports our existence, helps us continue living, and has an impact on our future. 

Bryn Chancellor seems to echo chapter after chapter in beautiful detail and description of the human character that we are not alone even though there are times we may feel alone. 

"There was a whole wide world. It was still there, waiting."  (Chancellor, 321)

Bryn Chancellor presents a broad range of characters that everyone can identify with and with whom they can sympathize.  Whether it be in our life choices or lifestyle the books shows we are not alone and our survival depends on that understanding.

The story had an enormous amount of symbolism regarding new beginnings and the dirt, as is the earth. The references to the earth, dirt, nature and  new beginnings seemed to imply to me symbolism for life and death. The idea of choosing to live or die. Are we living an authentic life? Are we living life to it's fullest potential? Are we hiding or running from something?  

The main mystery behind the disappearance of Jess Winters makes everyone in the town face these questions as they go through the self-examination of their own life, the disappearance and re-capturing of their own personal dreams.  

"Sycamore" was appropriate as the title of the fictional town and book because for me it symbolized a tree or an implied growth from the dirt. The title represented nature or the source of life. "Sycamore" by Bryn Chancellor is not just a book, it is an experience. "Sycamore" is the experience of life encapsulated in the life of the main character of Jess Winters and the life experience of the many fictional characters in the town.  In the end, "Sycamore" Bryn Chancellor is reading the experience of your life and understanding that you are not alone, no one is. ;D