Sometimes we open a book of fiction hoping to escape to another place and time. While we read, we can imagine living in a world of wizards and gentle giants; diving 20,000 leagues under the sea; or flying in a hot air balloon over rainbows and yellow brick roads.
At other times, fiction pulls us into the dreams and fears of those who live through hardships that most of us can hardly imagine. These are the stories that make news headlines, that cause us to shudder, and that move us to hold onto our loved ones a little bit tighter. They’re the stories that open our eyes to dire struggles in the world – and they’re the stories that inspired Julie Cantrell to write The Feathered Bone.
The novel begins with a sixth-grade field trip to pre-Katrina New Orleans during a Halloween celebration. A suburban mother named Amanda Salassi volunteers to be a chaperone on the trip and is in charge of her daughter, Ellie, and Ellie’s best friend, Sarah Broussard. At the end of the trip, just as children are heading back to their school bus, Amanda discovers that Sarah has vanished without a trace. While the abduction puts Sarah’s life in peril, the crime also throws several characters into a nightmare of fear, grief, guilt, and survival.
The topics explored in this novel are dark, yet Sarah brings light to the story through the journal entries that she writes during her captivity. Even though she is living in a world of human trafficking, sexual slavery, and pedophilia, she never loses her faith in God, her family, or the belief that she will return home one day.
Cantrell also explores the emotional toll Sarah’s abduction has on the people who were left in its wake. Readers go behind closed doors to see different ways in which people can become held captive by abuse, isolation, and insurmountable guilt.
In the midst of great turmoil, it is Sarah herself who demonstrates the most perseverance. “I’m going to remind myself that I can bend and bend,” she wrote in her journal. “No matter how bad things might get, I will never break. Because I’m stronger than they think I am.”
Unfortunately, not all of Cantrell’s characters share Sarah’s inner strength – and without the ability to bend like a feathered bone, they risk breaking under pressure.
Cantrell’s writing in The Feathered Bone is exceptional and her love of Louisiana is a colorful backdrop for this dramatic story. She shows us that even when something as destructive as a hurricane rages into our lives, literally or figuratively, there is recovery after every storm and the sun will shine again.
The Feathered Bone is now available for purchase.
ABOUT JULIE CANTRELL