Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things.
When your father's a pastor, it's hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reasons to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town is kidnapped, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.
As an atheist who finds the idea of faith utterly intriguing, I found this a really interesting book to read. Sam's father is a pastor so she's always had a firm belief in God, but then things start to fall apart and she starts to question her faith. Her mother's in rehab, a friend from church disappears, and her father might be having an affair. Sam's left alone and struggling to deal with everything that's going on in her life. Having never had an faith of my own, I always find it interesting to listen to people that do.
It's not exactly heavy on plot or characterisation, but there's a blend of both that builds quite a vivid picture of Sam's life. I could almost feel the heat and humidity as she lay in her un-air-conditioned house, or worked on making the garden more desert-friendly. Her slightly awkward friendships with Vanessa and Daniel also resonated strongly with me - they get along and they do things together, but Sam is aware that they frequently do things with other people that they don't invite her to because she's the pastor's daughter. She lives entirely in his shadow, and it affects every area of her life.
Something I found particularly interesting about this book, though, was that I didn't try and guess what had happened to Jody - the girl who is kidnapped. There's all this talk about finding her, but less about someone taking her. I was so wrapped up in Sam's personal crisis that I didn't even wonder who might have taken her after a certain point, and actually overlooked a large clue. Normally, I would have spent all my reading time agonising over who was responsible, and I wonder if the fact that I didn't is a good or a bad thing. Either way, I'll be looking out for more of Sara Zarr's books in the future.