A mysterious death by the train tracks. Secrets and lies that tear families apart. The new best friend who becomes the ultimate frenemy. A seemingly supernatural phenomenon at the lake. All this and more come together in Sinkhole, the gripping debut novel by Davida G. Breier.
At the start of the novel, Michelle A. Miller—known as “Chelle” by family and the few close to her—is making the long drive back to Florida, the state where she grew up and has long since avoided, thanks to childhood alienation and a series of suffocating emotional traumas. The drive back, precipitated by a phone call from her older brother urging her to see their mother in the hospital, brings back everything she had tried to escape. The return to the physical terrain of her rural central Florida hometown of Lorida is also a return to psychological tumult she is now forced to reckon with.
In chapters that alternate between the 1980s past and the early-2000s present, Sinkhole reveals that Chelle, as an ’80s teenager, was “nameless and faceless” in high school: “I was one of those kids who simply went to school, did what they were told, and went home at the end of the day. I was quiet. I was invisible. I was forgettable.” Until she is suddenly befriended by Sissy, one of the school’s popular kids whom—compared to Chelle and her working class family living in a trailer park—is rich, fashionable, and appears to have it all figured out. Right away the best friendship brightens Chelle’s days, until bit by bit, a dark cloud creeps in and hovers over the two girls, then spreads to all that Chelle held dear.
Competitive swimming, which Chelle excels at, is her way out of the darkness and offers an escape from Lorida. Another bright spot in the darkness is Morrison, another kid on the social periphery at school with whom she develops an unexpected connection that would also serve as lifeline back to her true self—a self that becomes obscured for a while by the dark cloud Sissy envelopes them in. In the final chapters of Sinkhole, the three—Chelle, Morrison, and Sissy—are in a tense showdown that takes a dangerous turn. These chapters genuinely had me holding my breath. I could not put the book down until the very end. And what an ending it is!
Featuring an asexual (ace) protagonist in Chelle, Sinkhole is a coming-of-age novel and psychological thriller that readers won’t forget. Especially recommended for fans of stories set in Florida, LGBTQIA+ readers, those interested in examinations of class and social hierarchies in school and the wider community, and those intrigued by depictions of emotional manipulation and narcissistic abuse in friendships and family relationships. –Gina Murrell (University of New Orleans Press, 2000 Lakeshore Dr., New Orleans, LA 70148, unopress.org)