"The Gates of Evangeline" (Putnam), by Hester Young
Charlotte "Charlie" Cates has had a rough time. Her husband ran off with another woman and then her young son died from a brain aneurysm. She jeopardized her job by taking time off from work to deal with these events, and she spends her days wallowing in self-pity. She takes sleeping pills to find peace from otherwise restless nights.
Then Cates is asked by an old boss to write the history of a family whose 2-year-old son vanished from his locked bedroom in the early 1980s. The mystery has never been solved.
She's told the family is finally ready to talk about that tragic event while discussing several generations of their history.
While she prepares to live for a while in Louisiana and write the book, she begins to have intense dreams that focus on young children in danger. Prior to a ballet recital, she has a vision of her best friend's young daughter tripping on the curtain and breaking her ankle. At the venue she watches events unfold as she saw them in her dream. Then she starts having dreams about a little boy in a rowboat. She knows it is the missing child.
Cates is a sympathetic and realistic heroine who tells a captivating tale, and the gothic feeling of life on the estate plus the balance between hopelessness and utter joy is rich and rewarding. What makes the story ultimately work is author Hester Young's amazing writing. Readers of "The Gates of Evangeline" -- Young's debut novel -- will be familiar with all of the elements, but the powerful writing makes it seem original.