Review: The Past Is Never by Tiffany Quay Tyson

Title: The Past Is Never by Tiffany Quay Tyson
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Genre: Historical (70s), Fiction
Length: 284 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


A compelling addition to contemporary Southern Gothic fiction, deftly weaving together local legends, magical realism, and the search for a missing child.

Siblings Bert, Willet, and Pansy know better than to go swimming at the old rock quarry. According to their father, it’s the Devil’s place, a place that’s been cursed and forgotten. But Mississippi Delta summer days are scorching hot and they can’t resist cooling off in the dark, bottomless water. Until the day six-year-old Pansy vanishes. Not drowned, not lost . . . simply gone. When their father disappears as well, Bert and Willet leave their childhoods behind to try and hold their broken family together.

Years pass with no sign, no hope of ever finding Pansy alive, and as surely as their mother died of a broken heart, Bert and Willet can’t move on. So when clues surface drawing them to the remote tip of Florida, they drop everything and drive south. Deep in the murky depths of the Florida Everglades they may find the answer to Pansy’s mysterious disappearance . . . but truth, like the past, is sometimes better left where it lies.

Perfect for fans of Flannery O’Connor and Dorothy Allison, The Past Is Never is an atmospheric, haunting story of myths, legends, and the good and evil we carry in our hearts.


Set in the mid 1970s, The Past Is Never by Tiffany Quay Tyson is an atmospheric tale of mystery and intrigue.

One hot summer day in 1976, fourteen year Roberta Lynn (Bert), sixteen year old Willet and six year Pansy head to the quarry to go swimming although their father has warned them to stay away from the cursed swimming hole. Bert and Willet leave Pansy, who is a strong swimmer, while they go and pick berries. A strong but brief storm hits and in the aftermath, Bert discovers Pansy has vanished. Despite countless news stories and numerous searches, no trace of the little girl is ever found. Also missing is the kids’ father who was out of town on “business” and he too disappears without a trace. Willet and Bert try to keep their remaining family together, but will their mother ever accept the fact that neither Pansy nor her husband will return?

Willet and Bert never give up hope their father and sister will be found, but they are realistic enough to know they might never see them  again.  In the aftermath of the disappearances, they have no choice but to step up and take care of themselves and their mother. Willet takes whatever jobs he can find and Bert works with their Granny Clem. By the early eighties, they are old enough to follow a few leads to Florida where they hope to find answers about their missing family members.

Interspersed with the events unfolding in the present are chapters detailing the tragic history of the quarry. How these stories fit into the mystery of Pansy’s disappearance does not become clear until late in the novel. These chapters are interesting but without context, they are a little confusing.

The Past Is Never by Tiffany Quay Tyson is a somewhat gloomy and slow paced novel. The characters are well defined and the legends about the quarry are somewhat mystical and quite eerie. The novel comes to satisfying but somewhat bittersweet conclusion.

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Historical, Historical (70s), Rated C+, Review, Skyhorse Publishing, The Past Is Never, Tiffany Quay Tyson

One Response to Review: The Past Is Never by Tiffany Quay Tyson

  1. Timitra

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kathy