In the fair warning department: Don't start this book unless you have lots of immediate free time to finish it. Yes, it is that much of a page-turner. (I gulped it down in one heady weekend. Could. Not. Stop. Reading.) Two characters' lives intertwine into one unforgettable story, although these people will never meet.
The journey begins when Dr. Lucas Hudson, living in the tiny burg of Blackhawk, Iowa, is called in to pinch-hit for the vacationing coroner. Alex Kennedy is Lucas's friend who also happens to be the town's police chief. Neither Alex nor Lucas is surprised that Jim Sparks, known for his sad, alcohol-fueled existence, has chosen to end his life. Still, Lucas finds the sight of Jim, hanging from his barn rafter, incredibly sad, and he has to overcome his reluctance in order to examine the body. Lucas expects no surprises, so he is amazed when he happens to stumble upon a human bone buried in the floor of the barn. He immediately knows that there is an entire body hidden --- and he believes he knows who it is.
"SLEEPING IN EDEN is the very definition of a page-turner, centered on an intriguing mystery and peopled with characters we grow to care for, making for a rather urgent reading situation in which we give up details like a good night's sleep in order to finish the book."
Angela Sparks, Jim's daughter, mysteriously disappeared from Blackhawk eight years earlier. She had played a complicated role in Lucas's life when his wife, Jenna, a social worker, took the neglected girl under her wing. In fact, her abrupt disappearance had figured into the terrible rending of his and Jenna's marriage, a shredding of the ties between them that continues to evolve to this day. Lucas and Jenna still share a house, but that feels more and more temporary, and Jenna has begun speaking of moving out.
The story shifts now to the past, in which a young girl named Meg Painter meets a newcomer to her hometown of Sutton, Iowa. Meg is 14 and starting to notice that some girls her age are able to ooze sexiness. She cannot, and doesn't want to begin. She is more interested in books and sports, and in maintaining excellent grades as she enters high school. On the summer night we meet her, she is playing a game similar to Ghosts in the Graveyard with the neighbor kids. She is hiding in the raspberry bushes when Dylan Reid, the new boy in town, grabs her ankle. Meg had noticed him previously. She knew Dylan was a friend of Jess's, her best friend Sarah's older brother. He informs her now that he has caught her, and she retorts that it will never happen again.
However, when the first day of classes rolls around, Dylan begins walking her to and from school. Meg has mixed feelings about what this might mean…until he offers to teach her street bike stunts. From then on, Dylan becomes an integral part of Meg's life, although she tries to conceal how much he means to her. As the years go by, things change. Eventually Meg finds herself in a complicated romantic triangle, the reverberations of which will sound throughout her time on earth…and someday, into the life of a person she will never meet: Lucas Hudson.
SLEEPING IN EDEN is the very definition of a page-turner, centered on an intriguing mystery and peopled with characters we grow to care for, making for a rather urgent reading situation in which we give up details like a good night's sleep in order to finish the book. In addition, author Nicole Baart skillfully pens a unique and elegant narrative form, in which the past and the present interweave to form a seamless whole. All in all, this is extremely enjoyable reading and highly recommended.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on May 24, 2013