The Camerons have not gathered together for twelve years — not since the fateful weekend that was supposed to be a relaxing getaway at Olivia and Joel’s new country dream home ended in disaster. On that occasion, a recession threatened the viability of the financial institution founded by the Cameron brothers’ great-grandfather. Joel and his twin brother, Tim, were operating the institution along with their oldest brother, Rafe, and Scott, their charming youngest brother. But two of the brothers came bearing news about the business that would have lasting implications.
Phoebe, the shy, inexperienced friend of Carla, Tim’s wife, joined the family’s weekend retreat, as did Olivia’s sister, Violet, a London attorney deeply in love with Scott. The four couples were joined by Lottie, Olivia and Joel’s bright five-year-old daughter, as well as Tim and Carla’s children, Adam and Emma.
Violet has convinced Olivia to host a reunion, ostensibly so that each family member can come to grips with what happened during their last gathering. Remarkably, all family members have agreed to return, even though Joel left the family business shortly thereafter and has been estranged from Tim ever since. Phoebe, Rafe’s wife, has become even more emotionally delicate in the ensuing years, and Lottie, now seventeen years old, has no memory of that first get-together, even though she may be the only one who really knows what happened all those years ago.
Author Jessica Chambers describes the Camerons as “one screwed-up family with enough emotional baggage to fill an entire series of Maury [Povich].” That’s an understatement. That’s also what makes Dark is the Sky so much fun.
Readers must abandon their skepticism about the book’s starting premise: that all of the characters would agree, after such a long period of time and so much animosity between some of them, to return to the very place where tragedy struck twelve years ago. But soon after doing so, the tangled web of betrayals, long-held secrets, clandestine rendezvous, malificent motives, and unlikely alliances woven by Chambers will keep readers guessing right up to the end.
Dark is the Sky spotlights an eclectic mix of intriguing characters, none of which is pure hero or villain. Chambers skillfully displays each characters’ foibles and considerably rare moments of altruism at perfectly-timed intervals, proving that even within such a dysfunctional group there are infinite shades of gray and glimpses of the world’s most sought-after commodity, true love. In fact, it is Violet’s true love for Scott that has left her grieving him for more than a decade and determined to understand how and why he suddenly died in Olivia and Joel’s swimming pool. Violet confides in Olivia that she believes Scott was murdered, an idea that Olivia outwardly dismisses, but inwardly ponders. Could it be that Scott’s death was erroneously ruled an accident? Some family members have even speculated that he committed suicide.
Think of it as women’s fiction with an edge, blending emotion, complex relationships and mystery.~ Author Jessica Chambers on Dark is the Sky
Rafe, the J.R. Ewing-like oldest brother, has continued operating the family business while manipulating and deceiving his naive, high-strung wife, Phoebe. Meanwhile, Carla, who carefully guards her social standing and enjoys living luxuriously, remains devoted to Tim despite all of her other shortcomings and the ends to which she will resort in order to protect him from being hurt by numerous truths. Olivia is bereft in light of Joel’s recent suspicious behavior. Hang-up telephone calls and hushed conversations have convinced her that their once-solid marriage will end because of his extra-marital affair. Joel is aware of Olivia’s fears and needs to assuage them, but must first address his long-standing grudge against Tim, whom he cannot even bring himself to treat civilly as the reunion kicks off. Meanwhile, Lottie has secretly begun dating her first cousin, Adam, knowing that neither her parents nor his will ever approve of the relationship. And Lottie’s terrifying recurring nightmare has recently increased in frequency and intensity, perhaps foreshadowing a recovery of her long-repressed memory of Scott’s death and the events surrounding it.
Detail after delicious detail is unveiled as the action alternates between the current-day gathering and fateful earlier get-together. The dialogue is mostly believable and although many of the characters are “types,” each is fleshed-out, emotionally textured. As more particulars about the characters’ relationships with each other come to light, the book’s pace builds. Eventually, all of the family secrets and motives are revealed, as are the repercussions. No one emerges from Olivia and Joel’s country retreat unscathed, even though Violet achieves her goal of learning the truth about Scott’s death.
The book’s title actually comes from the Beatles’ hit “And I Love Her” on the Hard Day’s Night album: “Bright are the stars that shine, dark is the sky . . .” With her second novel, Chambers proves that she has the potential to be a bright shining star in the literary galaxy. Dark is the Sky is an impressive early work from a novelist with a promising future.