Skip to main content

Everything We Didn't Say


Everything We Didn't Say

After graduating from high school, Juniper Baker was convinced that she was going to be one of the few kids who successfully escaped Jericho, the small Iowa town where she grew up. And in fact, 14 years later, Juniper seems to have done just that --- except when we first meet Juniper, now in her early 30s, she’s heading back to Jericho, despite her best-laid plans.

Ostensibly, the purpose of Juniper’s trip is to help out her old mentor Cora, the town librarian who’s battling cancer. But actually she’s trying to get out ahead of the latest true crime podcaster who has set their sights on uncovering the truth about an unsolved double homicide --- the murder of the Bakers’ family friends and closest neighbors --- that rocked Jericho the summer after high school graduation. And that anonymous podcaster seems determined to blame the person whom many view as the prime suspect: Juniper’s brother, Jonathan.

"Along with being an effective mystery, EVERYTHING WE DIDN’T SAY is an exploration of how both people and communities can evolve in surprising ways."

Juniper’s reception in Jericho is as chilly as the winter weather. Her former best friend from high school can’t stand the sight of her; even her teenage daughter Willa, who was conceived during that fateful summer and has been raised by Juniper’s mom and stepdad, isn’t giving Juniper the warm welcome she had hoped for. What with trying to repair the relationship with Willa, investigating a cold case, and figuring out where she belongs in Jericho, Juniper has her hands full. Then mysterious things start happening, things that remind more than a few people of that summer most of them would rather forget.

EVERYTHING WE DIDN’T SAY unfolds in two parallel chronologies --- one present-day narrative told in the third person and one from 14 years earlier in Juniper’s first-person voice. Savvy readers may arrive at the solution to the murder mystery well before Juniper does, but that suspense is only part of what will keep you absorbed in Juniper’s story. The real mystery here is what came between Juniper and Jonathan during that long-ago summer, the siblings who were once as close as twins but grew apart --- in large part, as the book’s title suggests, due to the secrets they kept from one another and the truths that Juniper, at least, couldn’t bring herself to acknowledge.

Nicole Baart’s novel demonstrates a real understanding and fondness for small town and rural life, acknowledging the insularity, petty jealousies and resentments that can mar any community or family while also showing how both can adapt. This is especially apparent in her treatment of environmental issues, which may have played a role in the murder and has only become more relevant in this farming community. Along with being an effective mystery, EVERYTHING WE DIDN’T SAY is an exploration of how both people and communities can evolve in surprising ways.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on November 5, 2021

Everything We Didn't Say
by Nicole Baart