Once, in Lourdes

Spiegel & Grau. Jun. 2017. 302p. ISBN 9780812989236. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780812989243. F
OrangeReviewStarIn the summer of 1968, in Lourdes, MI, as wars are raging at home and abroad, teenagers Catherine "Kay" Campion, Vera DeVito, Christopher Joseph "CJ" Walker, and St. John "Saint" Scully spend time together in the local park, aka the Haight, Midwest. One day, Vera challenges everyone to share their darkest secret. Confessions flow, from Kay's shame of overeating to CJ's hateful actions toward his father to Saint's humiliation at the hands of bullying neighbors. But Vera's revelation of taking LSD for the first time with her younger brother, Garth—though omitting the unspeakable act that followed—is ultimately what spurs the foursome to pledge their lives to one another. In two weeks' time, they will join hands and leap from a nearby bluff, friends "4EVER." As the days count down and unforeseen events alter the group dynamics, the clarity of their decision begins to fade, culminating in a heart-shattering and profound denouement.
VERDICT Fourteen years after her well-received first novel, Bloody Mary, multi-award winner Solwitz (Blood and Milk: Stories) returns with a tour de force examining the bonds of friendship and the adolescent state of mind. Expect to be taken to the brink more than once. Highly recommended.

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