Amanda Salassi and her friends are chaperoning their 12-year-old children's field trip to New Orleans. It's a trip meant to teach the class about Mardi Gras and its history. Everyone is having a blast until Amanda's daughter's best friend vanishes. This is a tight-knit group and all are affected. Amanda feels guilt at having listened to the girls ask her to let them at least go to the bathroom without a chaperone hovering. Amanda's daughter feels guilty for not seeing exactly where Sarah went during the bathroom trip. Beth, Sarah's mother, feels guilty for having bowed out of the field trip early. The teacher feels guilty for losing a student during a class trip. Even the school bus driver feels guilty for not having returned all students back to the school.
As the search for Sarah kicks into high gear, Hurricane Katrina also hits. No one in the community will be the same. For Amanda, her daughter, and even Amanda's husband, their lives are deeply affected. For Beth and her husband Preacher, their faith falters and leads them to question everything the Bible's taught them.
That's the basic premise of the book without giving away any spoilers. The story is interlaced with letters from Sarah, so the reader is kept up to date with Sarah's situation, but much of the focus remains on how each character copes as they continue the search for Sarah, deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and try to deal with their guilt. There are so many layers to Julie Cantrell's powerful book that I did have to take breaks. Twists in this novel were completely shocking, so I felt each blow almost as much as the characters did.
The Feathered Bone is a work of Christian fiction, though even with the biblical references I never felt that it was preachy, as some Christian fiction can be. Instead, it explored characters' beliefs with realism that helped paint a complex picture of faith and trust. I loved this story and the characters as a result. Amanda is a counselor and sees a number of patients who are coping with situations ranging from depression to suicide and verbal abuse to domestic assault, that's part of the reason this book is tough on the emotions.
This Thomas Nelson release came out on January 26, 2016. It's ideal fodder for book discussions and a story I consider a must-read, especially if you like Jodi Picoult and other novelists who do not gloss over the hard facts of today's world.