The Big Idea: Jess Montgomery
William Faulkner once said “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” It’s a sentiment that Jess Montgomery can certainly appreciate, since her new novel, The Echoes, deals with something very close to that idea. Here she is to explain further.
Can we ever outrun our pasts?
I think the answer is… no.
Of course, most of us don’t try to fully escape our pasts—because most of us don’t have such dramatic pasts that we feel we must.
But all of us have at least bits of our pasts that we’d rather forget. A thoughtless comments we wish we hadn’t made. An awkward or uncomfortable event. An embarrassing choice.
And yet, even though we can’t possibly recall ever second of our lives, I’d contend every moment lived (recollected or not) shapes us.
The past echoes through us, into our present, ever part of our worldview and how we relate to one another. Sometimes, it’s not even our past that comes into our present to reshape our lives, but the pasts (and past secrets) of our loved ones.
This is the Big Idea at the core of The Echoes.
As July 4, 1928 approaches, Sheriff Lily Ross and her family look forward to the opening of an amusement park in a nearby town, created by Chalmer Fitzpatrick―a veteran and lumber mill owner. The park is in honor of veterans, particularly Lily’s brother Roger, who was killed in the Great War while overseas in France.
But Roger had a secret that he kept from his family; he had a daughter in France.
Meanwhile other secrets and past haunts riddle Chalmer’s family.
These pasts collide in the present, leading to murder and a kidnapping.
As Lily investigates these crimes, she also confronts her brother’s past, but her own past losses and haunts as well, and must decide how to come to terms with them for the sake of her present life as well as her future. She also must reckon with how to handle that her and Roger’s mother kept his secret as well.
Of course, this won’t be the last time that Lily will need to think about the past and how it has rippled forward in her present life. She’s wise enough to know it’s a continual, ongoing process—and a necessary one for a fulfilling present.