Sarah Wathen’s novel The Tramp introduces the strange town of Buffalo Square through the eyes of misguided tourists. When the façade of quaintness quickly wears off, the family soon notices it seems deserted except for fleeting moments with a local resident. The characters fade from the narrative and the black eyes of a red-headed high school Irish girl, Candy Vale, become the center of a strange family history in out of the way Shirley County. Candy is reunited with a childhood friend, John Robinson, and together they unravel the secrets of the town’s inhabitants through mysterious motifs, intriguing old photographs, an ominous tarot reading, and the mythical waters of a Blue Spring.
The “realness” of Wathen’s teenage characters is portrayed through their hormonal territorial nature with each other and the bluntness of their language and conversations. Sam Castle is the defiant rebel with the flirtatious charm; John Robinson is the new kid on the block who is the protector of Candy, and Amanda is the brash vixen who goes after what she wants. Their curious nature reminds the reader of the vibrant emotions of youth and its secrets amidst rivalry and foreboding when an innocent Homecoming celebration goes awry on a railroad track with an unexplained death. As old wounds resurface for Candy triggered by tragedy, John is able to save her for the second time in her life.
Ancestral ties, strange dreams, and strong bonds forge the foundation of this novel. It peels back the layers of its characters chapter by chapter with all the red herrings necessary for suspense to move to an eventful epilogue.