cover image The First Day of Spring

The First Day of Spring

Nancy Tucker. Riverhead, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-19156-9

British author Tucker (The Time in Between: A Memoir of Hunger and Hope) makes a spectacular fiction debut with this gripping novel about childhood pain and healing. Eight-year-old Chrissie Banks’s father rarely comes home, while her mother dislikes her. Chrissie lies, steals, brags, and bullies other children in her working-class neighborhood to get the food and attention she craves. One day, she strangles a two-year-old boy, and no one suspects her of the crime. She loves the power her secret gives her, but as the police ignore her and interest in the boy’s death fades, her desire to hurt another child mounts. Two decades later, Chrissie has become a single mother after her release from a detention home. Obsessed with caring for her five-year-old daughter, Molly, she panics when the social worker who supervises her parenting asks to see her after an accident results in a broken wrist for Molly. Terrified that Molly will be taken away, she considers flight and reckons anew with her past. The taut, meticulously observed narration, which alternates between Chrissie’s youthful and adult perspectives, mines the dangers that childhood trauma causes both its victims and those around them. Fans of Lisa Jewell and smart psychological suspense will eagerly await Tucker’s next. Agent: Catherine Drayton, InkWell Management. (May)