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On Halloween 1963, eleven-year-old Chuck Coolidge and his brother Danny are lost in a toxic smog covering the steel town of Slippery Elm, Pennsylvania. When the smog lifts, half the town is sick and twenty people are dead. And Danny is missing.
Now, over twenty years later, Chuck's teenage daughter Frank plots escape from this “busted and disgusted” town. When a child is found in the river, murdered, investigators link the crime to the disappearance of Danny in ’63, and Frank’s life is turned upside down. In the face of her worst fears, she must uncover her family’s dark past if she wants to keep her sister Boots from the hands of The State. Led to discover the unimaginable truth about Danny’s disappearance, LIES IN BONE culminates in a shocking eleventh-hour reveal and an emotionally charged finale.
Told by a tart-tongued young woman with a love of Bruce Springsteen, LIES IN BONE is at once a mystery and coming-of-age tale fueled by dark secrets involving love, murder, and the truths worth lying for.
praise for LIES IN BONE
“Dive into this dingy little town, shrouded in secrets, and follow the teenage narrator as she tries to untangle her family's web of shame and sorrow. The fantastic, fallible characters leap to life in these dialogue-filled pages and draw readers into an immersive world involving mysteries of missing children, mental illness and unsolved murders. A gripping tale of outcasts that keeps you guessing and, more importantly, caring how it will unspool. Mystic River meets Stranger Things in this engrossing debut novel, which showcases Natalie Symons's voice and storytelling.”
—LANE DEGREGORY, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, The Girl in the Window
"Over the course of this novel, Symons shows that she’s unafraid to confront some of the gritty realities of old industrial towns in America. Her story starkly highlights Slippery Elm’s frightening characters, its rampant economic despair, and its tragic history, and contrasts these sharply with the sweet kids at the heart of the narrative. Although it reads like a literary novel, the compelling plot features elements of a detective story, and the investigation is exciting to read. It’s skillfully written throughout, and the novel’s overall sense of sadness isn’t mitigated by its numerous strengths. A moody, hard-edged coming-of-age story that keeps the horrors coming until the very end."
“Fierce teen protagonist, Frances “Frank” Coolidge… impolite, foul-mouthed, self-mutilating and rebellious, and she’s loving, loyal and has backbone to spare; a female Steve McQueen, a young Sarah Conner; totally icon-worthy. A heart-stopping work of suspense fiction…peel back the layers and you experience gothic family drama—a primal, no-holds-barred expedition into the basest of human instincts… a tour de force of friendship, love and redemption. Organically woven and expertly balanced…Gritty, campy and dark wit and, especially, a keen grasp of family dysfunction and its many varieties, all add to Lies in Bone’s hypnotically page-turning appeal…”
—JULIE GARISTO, 83 Degrees Media
"How often does one come across an author with the power of Carson McCullers & Harper Lee, but with the lyric poetry of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, these days? How often? Never-- Until now...Ms. Symons' incredible gift of vivid yet subtle characterization and description without ever steamrolling anyone is phenomenal...If this gem of a novel doesn't win awards, then we are all doomed for there is no justice in this world after all. WARNING: have a box of Kleenex handy-- I'm glad I did."
—JOSEPH PARRA, Stage, TV, and Cinema Art & Artists
"The melancholic force of Lies in Bone will hold you hostage. The humor in this gritty, coming-of-age mystery is driven by a whip smart young heroine like none other. Your appetite for answers will be satiated, but not before you’re tortured deliciously by author Natalie Symons."
—HANNAH BENITEZ, author of GringoLandia and Dike
"A deadly smog washes over the rust belt town of Slippery Elm, Pennsylvania in the opening scene of Natalie Symons’ compelling debut novel, Lies in Bone. True to the title, the 1963 disaster lingers in the marrow of the survivors, like Chuck Coolidge, and in their descendants, including Chuck’s teen-age daughter, Frank, who refuses to surrender to the evanescence descending on her family and her father’s hometown. Dickensian in the best sense of the word, Lies in Bone is a novel that grabs the reader and does not let go."
—PAUL WILBORN, author of Cigar City, Florida Book Awards fiction gold medal winner
"A taut, intense psychological investigation of trauma, loss and redemption, Lies in Bone draws the reader into a dense web of past sins and unresolved mysteries. Natalie Symons' command of language allows this layered story to flow seamlessly around complex characters, actors in a drama seeking to reconcile the flotsam of very broken lives. With this book, Symons emerges as a serious new novelist whose work cannot be ignored."
—GREG FIELDS, author of Through the Waters and the Wild
"Finally, a heroine of substance growing into her own magnificence, bearing witness to the unspeakable with bravery outpacing her years. A tale told with unapologetic realism and voice crafted with skill and humanity."
—LORI D. SHANNON, author of Superwoman Died Tonight
“Symons displays her adept playwrighting skills with earthy dialogue that flows effortlessly…I’m reminded of the way Joan Didion writes about similar themes around the unexpected loss of her husband and their only daughter in The Year of Magical Thinking, but in this one, we have an intriguing mystery thriller on our hands… …This small-town mystery with family ties is an engaging and at-times humorous literary thriller."
—FRANK PIZZOLI, Independent Book Review
"Natalie Symons' Lies in Bone vibrates within the reader. Following the intriguing, eerie first chapter, the story turns from its Stephen King-worthy opening into its own heart. As with her plays, Lark Eden and Naming True, Ms. Symons's great strength as a writer lies in her achingly real characters. Lies in Bone resonates with a strong cast of characters, led by a young girl who fights to find her way out of the toxic fog of her past and answer the questions that have haunted her family and her town for decades. You will want to read Lies in Bone all in one sitting—but don't cheat yourself out of moving fully through the evolution of the story in its own time. An extraordinarily satisfying work."
—ROXANNE FAY, playwright, Thrice To Mine and Upon This Rock: The Magdalene Speaks
“This thrilling book will charm and delight everyone who enjoys mystery, suspense, and strong protagonists with attitude …A mesmerizing mystery… the narrative voice irresistible…The author’s gift for plot and character shines with unusual brilliance … Lies in Bones is a spellbinder …The book just refuses to be put down.”
—READERS' FAVORITE (5 Star Review)
“This extraordinary story tugged at me on so many levels, and refused to leave my thoughts for even a moment until I reached its explosive conclusion. Lies in Bone is dark, tough and visceral, and it’s rich with twists, turns and breathless suspense—the very definition of a page-turner. Natalie Symons has created living, breathing and utterly engaging characters in cynical teenager Frank Coolidge, her ne’er-do-well father Chuck and the other members of a tightly dysfunctional family haunted by things that were, things that are, and things that never, ever should have been in the first place.”
—BILL DEYOUNG, Senior Writer and Editor St. Pete Catalyst, author of Skyway
“Symons has created an emotional page turner that has equal parts style and substance with some of the most memorable characters I’ve read in years. Think Stranger Things meets Great Expectations!
I simply couldn’t put it down. As you devour this novel you become acutely aware that this yarn about a girl named Frank is almost certain to be become the next streaming series everyone is tweeting about.”
—MATTHEW MCGEE, actor, comedian, podcast host
“As Natalie Symons's language crackles and sparks…fierce, funny and full of spunk, sixteen-year-old Frank (she’s a girl) discovers the truth behind a town’s tragedies along with the forces that brought down her family. More importantly, she discovers, against all odds, her own path to growing into a strong and caring young woman. Lies in Bone offers lively and elegant writing, a thrilling narrative, and the deep pleasure of accompanying Frank as she learns to forgive, to trust, and to love."
—DIANE CHIDDISTER, author of One More Day
"Gripping and dark, Lies in Bone so precisely captures the angst of long hidden secrets and dysfunction—the slow, corrosive descents and the hard-won triumphs. To me, the most disturbing thrillers are the ones that are all too plausible—almost familiar. Consider me disturbed."
—CINDY STOVALL, Beauty & The 'Burg Podcast
“Jaded teenage heroine Frank Coolidge, like an 80’s podcast detective, relies on her wits, fortitude, and resilience to investigate a decades-old unsolved mystery that is both tragic and chilling in its details. The residents of the small-town community touched by this tragedy are unflinchingly portrayed, and their personal traumas are masterfully revealed. Symons cleverly interweaves all of these elements to tell a story that keeps the reader guessing (and feeling) the whole time."
—J. ELIJAH CHO, actor, Halt and Catch Fire, writer/actor Mr. Yunioshi
“A long-ago disappearance leads to festering suspicion and murder in a faded Pennsylvania steel town, its grime and squalor captured in vivid detail in this suspenseful page-turner by first-time novelist Natalie Symons. An award-winning playwright, she’s also adept at conveying character through dialogue. The novel’s narrator, a tough-minded teenage girl nicknamed Frank, may remind you of other young anti-heroes and heroines (Holden, Scout, Frankie), but she has a foul-mouthed eloquence all her own. And Symons’s most delightfully original creation, a precocious six-year-old named Bernie, will win your heart—and quite possibly break it.”
—DAVID WARNER, Editor in Chief, duPont Registry Tampa Bay Magazine
“Lies in Bone accomplishes what every thriller must…it thrills! But equally thrilling to the plot is Ms. Symons’ writing style, where joy meets skill head on. She masters the perfect pop culture allusion, from a Huckleberry Hound Halloween costume to Clarence Clemmons wailing sax on “Thunder Road” to a character resembling Mr. Roper from Three’s Company. We always knew Ms. Symons for her playwriting prowess, but with Lies in Bone, she emerges as a first-rate novelist.”
—PETER NASON, BroadwayWorld
Author / Playwright