cover image The Ones We Keep

The Ones We Keep

Bobbie Jean Huff. Sourcebooks Landmark, $16.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-72823-905-7

Huff debuts with the uneven story of a family’s attempt to cope with the death of a child. A mother of three, Olivia Somerville goes on a solo hike during her family’s Vermont lodge vacation in 1971, and on the trail she hears from strangers that a little boy from New Jersey has just drowned. She knows that it was one of her sons—either nine-year-old Brian, four-year-old Andrew, or toddler Rory, given that the only other children at the lodge are from Nebraska. Refusing to find out which son died, she heads back to Montclair, N.J., grabs a valuable painting and cash from her home, and leaves the family forever. She settles in North Port, Vt., where her son died (turns out it was Andrew), reclaims her maiden name, and detaches from her old life. Her husband, Harry, and the boys try to put their lives back together, reeling not only from Andrew’s death but Olivia’s disappearance. Huff follows the characters over the next three decades, culminating in a life-changing meeting. Huff is a fine prose stylist, but she doesn’t make the central action of the book feel plausible, with Olivia’s actions being particularly hard to believe. It’s engrossing, but frustrating. Agent: Natanya Wheeler, Nancy Yost Literary. (Jan.)