by Cathryn Conroy (Gaithersburg, Maryland): This book. This book is gripping. This book is provocative. This book is haunting. This book is intense. This book is genius.

Written by S.M. Hulse, this masterpiece novel takes place in the tiny mountain town of Prospect, Montana. The two mines that once offered employment and prosperity—Eden and Gethsemane—have long been shuttered, leaving a dying town in their wake. Josephine Faber and her older brother, Samuel, have lived together—just the two of them—for years. Their father was killed when the Gethsemane mine collapsed. Their mother was horrifically murdered in front of them by an ex-boyfriend, and when the carnage was over, Jo, who was still a little girl at the time, was shot in the spine and paralyzed from the waist down. But Samuel became her beloved guardian and protector. He was her everything–until the day he did the unthinkable: set off a bomb at a courthouse that gravely injured a little girl, the daughter of the pastor whose church across the street was inadvertently caught in the blast. Samuel thought he could get away with it, but a surveillance camera captures his image. The FBI hounds Jo for any information, while agents search for Samuel, who has seemingly disappeared. Or has he? Meanwhile, Jo befriends a most unlikely man, someone who slowly brings out the story of her past and her terrors of the present.

This is a multilayered psychological novel that is so intricately and tightly woven it will leave you reeling. Shrouded in extraordinary biblical symbolism, the story examines the meaning of faith, the importance of family, and the heartbreak that only those we love the most can cause.

Even though the plot is well-developed, the novel’s strength is in the finely-wrought characters. The story slowly unfolds but in such a tantalizing way that it pulls in the reader bit by bit by bit. The writing is absolutely beautiful with stunning language and astonishing descriptions of seemingly minor details. Brilliant imagery of light and dark, earth and sky, and love and evil cement the novel as true literature.

This book is genius.