English professor’s debut novel receiving national acclaim

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

“Sycamore” the debut novel by UNC Charlotte author Bryn Chancellor has earned critical acclaim on the national stage. The work is being lauded as a riveting tale of how a teenage girl’s mysterious disappearance has haunted her Arizona hometown and how the discovery of her remains leads to unexpected healing and forgiveness.

In its list of “O’s Top 20 Books to Read This Summer,” O: The Oprah Magazine called “Sycamore” (Harper/HarperCollins) hypnotic. “Chancellor shifts nimbly between past and present and from character to character, cutting away the net of riddles that ensnares Sycamore’s residents,” the review stated.

Amazon has listed Chancellor’s novel as among the “Best Literature and Fiction of 2017 So Far” and named it one of its “Best Books of the Month” selections for May. Independent booksellers from across the nation named the book to its June Indie Next List of bookseller-recommended favorites. Glamour magazine, New York Post and the online community Bustle named it to their book recommendation lists.

In her book, Chancellor, an assistant professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, details a series of events that unfold across close to two decades.

Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. Sycamore’s longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, a teenage girl who disappeared suddenly 18 years earlier. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess’s troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility and a way forward for their lives.

Chancellor turned to her home state of Arizona and her hometown of Sedona and the neighboring towns of Cottonwood and Clarkdale as influence for her novel’s setting, drawing from her intimate knowledge of the place and people.

“A fictionalized version allowed me some distance to rearrange and create features and timelines that I needed,” Chancellor said. “In many ways, though, I see this book as a love letter to my hometown.”

In 2014, Chancellor was selected as the Poets and Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange winner in fiction, and she received a Literary Arts Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. Gulf Coast, Blackbird, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, Phoebe and other publications have published her short fiction.

A graduate of Vanderbilt University's MFA program, she was an assistant professor at the University of Montevallo in Alabama before joining the faculty at UNC Charlotte in the Department of English.

Read the entire story on CLAS Exchange.

Photo by Christy Whitney