One of our recommended books is Waiting for the NIght Song by Julie Carrick Dalton


A startling and timely debut, Julie Carrick Dalton’s Waiting for the Night Song is a moving, brilliant novel about friendships forged in childhood magic and ruptured by the high price of secrets that leave you forever changed.

Cadie Kessler has spent decades trying to cover up one truth. One moment. But deep down, didn’t she always know her secret would surface?

An urgent message from her long-estranged best friend Daniela Garcia brings Cadie, now a forestry researcher, back to her childhood home. There, Cadie and Daniela are forced to face a dark secret that ended both their idyllic childhood bond and the magical summer that takes up more space in Cadie’s memory then all her other years combined.

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A startling and timely debut, Julie Carrick Dalton’s Waiting for the Night Song is a moving, brilliant novel about friendships forged in childhood magic and ruptured by the high price of secrets that leave you forever changed.

Cadie Kessler has spent decades trying to cover up one truth. One moment. But deep down, didn’t she always know her secret would surface?

An urgent message from her long-estranged best friend Daniela Garcia brings Cadie, now a forestry researcher, back to her childhood home. There, Cadie and Daniela are forced to face a dark secret that ended both their idyllic childhood bond and the magical summer that takes up more space in Cadie’s memory then all her other years combined.

Now grown up, bound by long-held oaths, and faced with truths she does not wish to see, Cadie must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to protect the people and the forest she loves, as drought, foreclosures, and wildfire spark tensions between displaced migrant farm workers and locals.

Waiting for the Night Song is a love song to the natural beauty around us, a call to fight for what we believe in, and a reminder that the truth will always rise.

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  • Forge Books
  • Paperback
  • January 2022
  • 336 Pages
  • 9781250269201

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About Julie Carrick Dalton

Julie Carrick Dalton is the author of Waiting for the Night SongAs a journalist, JULIE CARRICK DALTON has published more than a thousand articles in The Boston Globe, BusinessWeek, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. She contributes to DeadDarlings, The Writer Unboxed, and GrubStreet’s writer’s blogs. She also owns and operates a 100-acre organic farm in rural New Hampshire, the backdrop for Waiting for the Night Song, her debut.


Waiting for the Night Song is not just a coming of age story, but several coming of age stories. It’s a novel about how time passes and how time stands still, ties that bind and ties that constrict, place and our place in the world, what keeps us together and what keeps us apart, all of which is to say that Julie Carrick Dalton has written a novel of elegant contradiction, intimately explored, beautifully woven together.” —Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling author of One Two Three

“Julie Carrick Dalton’s deftly constructed, urgent yet slow-burning debut novel reads like a warning from the frontlines of our rapidly deteriorating natural world.” —Omar El Akkad, American War

“Both a timely and timeless literary mystery, Waiting for the Night Song is as seductive as it is smart, blending the allure of Julie Dalton’s beloved rural New Hampshire setting with the dark undercurrents of a community’s racial divisions and betrayals. This is a story of love, of home, of friendship and family, of a childhood’s innocence and an adult’s comeuppance, all of which are in the line of fire in this beauty of a page turner.” —Michelle Hoover, award-winning author of Bottomland and The Quickening.

“Human nature clashes with Mother Nature in this riveting and heartbreaking coming of age story— gorgeously written, and wonderfully told. With its combination of powerful themes and intensely immersive setting, fans of Delia Owens will swoon to find their new favorite author. A phenomenal debut!” —Hank Phillippi Ryan, award-winning author of The First to Lie

Discussion Questions

1. What were your initial theories about the secrets Cadie and Daniela share? How did your impressions of the characters shift as more revelations were uncovered? In the end, who (or what) is ultimately to blame for those layers of deception?

2. From the mountain pine beetle to Bicknell’s thrush, what did the novel help you see in the intricately interconnected worlds outside your door?

3. In chapter ten, Cadie and Daniela take a blood oath to live by the Poachers’ Code, and they agree to use the code only for good. Re-read the code and discuss the wisdom as well as the potential risks in those ten rules.

4. In what way are Garrett, Daniela, and Cadie all outsiders in their community? What does it mean to belong in their town? How do girls and women fare there?

5. As Cadie and Daniela created an underground library for Garrett, with references to classics like Kidnapped and The Call of the Wild, what memories did this stir for you? Which of your own favorite books would you have wanted to share with the Summer Kid?

6. The books Cadie and Daniela deliver to Garrett do not represent a diverse range of authors. Their book selections are based on reading material that was readily available in most US libraries at that time in history. What contemporary books do you think would be on Sal’s reading list? How important is it for young readers to read from a diverse list of authors, including authors who represent their own identities?

7. What does the novel demonstrate about the power of family ties? How does Daniela’s family life compare to Cadie’s? How does the fracturing of a family affect Garrett? What legacies do Raúl and Dolores pass down to Sal, intentionally or not?

8. In chapter twenty-nine, we watch Piper offer a survival-of-the-fittest theory regarding forest fires; the author tells us, “Cadie wanted to admire the purity of Piper’s motives, but her naiveté was dangerous.” How did you react to their debate? How does their conversation compare to the sound-bite approach to conflicts over environmentalism? What are the benefits and challenges of hashtags like #CadenceUnderFire?

9. The budding romance between Cadie and Garrett is cut short when they are young, but they eventually have a chance to pick up where they left off. If things had ended differently, do you think those secrets would have created a bond between Cadie and Garrett? Or would the differing nature of secrets have driven them apart?

10. Cadie and Thea take a stand and are willing to lose their jobs over federal attempts to quash their research. Yet scientific discovery relies on public funding, which is tied to the attitudes and opinions of voters. What would it take to resolve that power struggle?

11. If you could write new legislation to protect immigrants in Raúl and Dolores’s situation, what new systems would you introduce?

12. The friendship between Daniela and Cadie is tested throughout their lives. This is sometimes exacerbated by the fact that Cadie will never be the target of racism, and she has the advantage of citizenship. Would their friendship have been the same if these differences did not exist?

13. The novel’s theme of survival is reflected in the concept of habitats and home—such as the bear trying to escape the flames, and Cadie’s attachment to the rustic house of her youth. How can humans fulfill their need for shelter without putting other living creatures in jeopardy?

14. The author wove beautiful details into the setting for Waiting for the Night Song, including Ice Age glaciers dropping chunks of granite on the forest floor. As you read the book’s closing paragraph, what did you predict for the future of Cadie’s world (and ours)?




Truth hides in fissures and hollows, in broken places and empty parts. It can be buried, crushed, or burnt, but the truth will always rise. The specific truth Cadie Kessler stalked came in the form of the mountain pine beetle. She pried a strip of bark off a dying pine tree. Her fingers, blistered and raw from hunting the elusive creature, froze as a gush of insects writhed against the exposed wood. They scattered for cover, but not fast enough.

“Got you.” Her voice, scratchy and dry from not having been used in days, echoed off granite boulders in the sparse forest. She scraped the beetles into a small envelope and tilted her head up to the morning sun.

Her phone buzzed in her pocket. She braced herself and answered her boss’s call.

“What’s up, Thea?”

“I looked at the images you sent yesterday. How am I supposed to present this? You’re clearly on restricted federal lands.”

Cadie didn’t respond.

“If we publish your research, we’d have to detail where we got the samples, then you’d get arrested for trespassing.”

“This is bullshit and you know it. This is public land. I should be able to collect samples on public land.” Cadie knew Thea agreed with her, but she needed to yell at someone. “If we don’t get control of the infestation now, it’s going to get out of control fast. And in this drought, it’s all going to burn. Look what happened in California. It’s the same beetle.”

“Getting yourself arrested isn’t going to help prove your case.”

Taking advantage of the clear cell signal, Cadie checked her messages as Thea talked on speaker phone.

“I don’t like it any more than you do,” Thea said.

Cadie scrolled through messages, stopping at a subject heading that grabbed her attention. Bicknell’s Thrush. The tiny songbird, a favorite from Cadie’s childhood, had all but disappeared in the New England woodlands in recent years. The message came from a grad student named Piper. Cadie didn’t have time to deal with students. But the thrush.

“Are you listening to me?” Thea said.

“Yeah. I’m here. What do you want me to do? Pretend I don’t know the forest is at risk of a devastating fire because of some ridiculous regulation?” Cadie said as she read Piper’s message. Hey Cadence! I’m working on a project to re-create/protect habitat for Bicknell’s thrush and found what I think is a bark beetle infestation. Can you confirm? Piper included a photo dated three days earlier, although Cadie knew the government had closed off that particular forest to environmental research in April.

“Where are you anyway?” Thea said. “Please tell me you aren’t anywhere near Mount Griffin. That fire’s moving fast.”

Uptick in local temps are driving Bicknell’s north, plus ski resorts, turbines. Then hurricanes in the DR, Cuba + deforestation in Haiti are eliminating the winter habitat and they aren’t surviving to return to New England, Piper wrote. Same conditions attracting your beetles are driving out my thrush. Can we share data?

“Cadie, are you there?” Thea sounded annoyed now.

“I’m fine. I’ll check in tomorrow.” Cadie zoomed in on Piper’s photos, which showed the beetle farther north than Cadie realized.

“Don’t get yourself arrested.” Cadie could hear Thea’s fingernails cantering against her desk. “I want to defend your research, but you need to give me irrefutable data and a legal way to prove it.”

“There is no legal way. If this forest burns before I establish the beetles are here, I won’t have any way to prove my theory.” She looked again at Piper’s photo. “And it’s not just here. They’re farther north than I thought.”

“How close are you to the fire? This isn’t worth getting killed over.”

“Exactly my point. People are already dying in these fires. If we can prove they’re linked to the beetles, we can get the resources to get ahead of them.”

Thea took in a breath as if to say something, but did not speak.

“I’m not planning to get hurt or caught.” Cadie paused. “But if I do, I won’t bring you into it. As of right now, consider me officially rogue. I have to go.”

She hung up before Thea could respond. The idea that defying an executive order to collect insect samples could brand Cadie, a five-foot-two entomologist, as a criminal struck her as funny, despite the potential consequences.

Cadence Kessler: Outlaw Entomologist.

She tried to laugh at herself, but the gnawing worry in her gut reminded her the fire was serious. She needed to get down the mountain by nightfall. If they closed the road, she could be trapped, and since no one knew her location, no one would know to look for her.

When she got home she would storm Thea’s office, dump bags of dead beetles on her desk and her lap, and nail poisoned wood samples to the wall. No one who examined her evidence would be able to deny the insects had moved from the Rockies to New England. No one would dare arrest her when they understood the threat. “I told you so” burned sweet on her tongue.

Cadie shook the envelope to the rhythm of a song she couldn’t quite remember. The spirited rustle, like seeds anxious to be planted, emboldened her, even as her body ached under the fifty-pound backpack. She trudged on. Only fifty meters to Mount Steady’s summit.

She could get a better sense of how much time she had from a higher elevation.

Smoke scratched the back of her throat, confirming the late-summer wind was already pushing the forest fires east. She paused for a sip of water. Working alone in the woods, Cadie marked time in elevation and ounces of water. She was running out of both.

This drought. This spate of fires. This beetle. As the temperature ratcheted up four degrees in less than a century, New Hampshire had practically invited the tiny creature and the fires that came with it. Cadie could slow the wildfires if someone would just believe her. The anticipation of being right, of being the hero, had lulled her to sleep the past several nights under the canopy of stars. Cocooned in her sleeping bag, she’d written the opening to her imagined TED Talk. When someone says you’re overreacting, but you know you’re right, keep reacting until it’s over.

Cadie’s backpack grew heavier, compressing her knees and spine, as if she might crumble into the rock under her feet. She forced herself up the final incline. If gravity pulled from the dense fist at the center of the Earth, then the higher she pushed herself up the mountain, the farther she removed herself from the core, the looser gravity’s grip would be. It tugged at her heels and stole the oxygen from her lungs. Only on the summits did Cadie feel a lightness in her chest. She stood untethered in the rushing wind. Anything seemed possible from the top of a mountain.

Cadie dropped her pack to the ground. A gust whipped her hair across her face, carrying traces of pine and the reedy flute of a distant hermit thrush. Wind stretched the clouds below her like raw cotton on a comb, allowing the rusty tips of dead pine trees to peek through. She pulled samples of tree bark and pine wedges from her backpack and laid them around her in a semicircle. The invasive beetle she had been hunting the last four days had carved lacy lines into the wood. The pea-sized creatures were killing off trees and leaving them as kindling in the parched woodlands. She stroked the delicate destruction with her finger. The beetles’ telltale blue fungus—the color of the autumn sky before sunset—stained the wood. That color meant death to a pine. She held a wedge to her face and inhaled the freshly cut wood. The tang of sap should have rushed in. But dead trees don’t bleed. They burn.

Smoke blurred the edge of the mountaintops to the west. Mount Griffin rose from the mist, green on the north slope with a slow-burning char on the south. When she finally convinced crews to start thinning the pines, she would salvage a few trunks to mill into floorboards for her home. If she ever stayed still long enough to own a home. The grooves the beetles carved would feel better under bare feet than the slick linoleum in her one-bedroom apartment.

From the mountaintop, home felt distant, as if it might not be there when she came down. Time moved more slowly in the woods, sliding by like the lazy flow of pine sap. As a child, she used to imagine the outside world slipping away as she leapt from rock to rock through the ferny woods surrounding her home. The pine and beech trees had been her friends. They had guarded her, swallowed her secrets whole.

It was her turn to protect the forest.

Silence enveloped the summit, an island of stone floating in the low-hanging clouds. If only time would stop. Right here. Right now. The fires would stall, the beetles would stop their assault, and Cadie would remain at the top of the world, where she could hide from gravity.

She tried to quell the twisting in her gut that reminded her the fires presented an opportunity. If they proved to be a bigger threat than expected, and if Cadie’s research stopped an inferno, it would transform her career, her future. She did not want to want that fire, but a small voice inside called out to the flames. Come if you dare.

Cadie selected a potato-sized stone from the ledge and dusted it against her thigh. She pressed her tongue to the rock, leaving a wet oval to reveal its hidden mineral life. The dull grays and browns of New Hampshire granite burst into streaks of silver and layers of radiant amber at the touch of her saliva. A creamy, jagged vein glowed in the sunlight. The oval shrank as wind sucked the light from the rock until it reverted to its flat finish. The iridescence of veiled colors fizzed on her tongue. Her mouth watered.

She tucked the stone in the bottom of her backpack, cradling it in the center of the tambourine she carried to scare off bears. It’s just one stone, she told herself each time. When she built her own house someday, the rocks she’d collected would form the skirt around her hearth. Stolen pieces of every mountain she hiked, markers of time. The stack of stones—at least thirty by now—formed a cairn in her apartment. She often wondered if the dilapidated building could bear the weight, or if one day it would all come crashing down.

Her cell phone buzzed against the granite slab as a text came through.

It’s Daniela. They found him.

The minerals on her tongue turned to acid. She read and reread the words until they became a jumble of illegible letters, and the screen powered down. She hurled a rock off the ledge and held her breath until it struck the slope below, unleashing a torrent of cascading stone. This couldn’t be happening.

I’m home. I need you here, Daniela texted again. They’re questioning my dad.

Cadie imagined the text message in Daniela’s childhood voice and didn’t restrain the sob that burst out with decades of compressed guilt. More than twenty-five years had passed since she had spoken to Daniela Garcia. If she acknowledged Daniela, Cadie would no longer be able to pretend that long-ago summer had never happened. The fiction of Cadie’s childhood, rewritten and edited so she could sleep at night, would come undone. The single gunshot echoed in her mind.

Or she could stay on her mountaintop and turn off her phone. She could hide for a little longer, at least until the fires got too close. She put her head between her knees and stared down at the fissures in the slab. She scratched a rock on the surface of the ledge, leaving white letters next to her wood samples. Cadie was here. It felt childish, but she traced over the letters until they stood out in bold blocks. Cadie was here.

Horizontal lines in the granite recorded time, a hundred thousand years between lines of crystallized minerals. Climbing her mountains meant traveling through time, treading on scars of each millennia. Unknowable catastrophic events had bent the stone, folding time in on itself. Moments that were never meant to touch, fused together in geological history.

She imagined the panic in Daniela’s dark eyes. As much as Cadie wanted to hide in the woods, the ferocity of the bond Cadie once shared with Daniela swelled in her chest, shaming her for wanting to abandon her friend again, as she had done so many years ago.

Her thumbs felt thick and clumsy as she typed a response.

On my way to the cottage. Meet me at 9 tonight? The tacky layer of sap, which felt like part of her skin after four days of climbing trees, stuck to the screen as she typed. She added three rocks to a cairn someone else had built. An offering. A prayer. The chilled morning air telegraphed the metallic peal of mineral against mineral, broadcasting her location into the valley.

Daniela—like the forest—had been her ally, her friend, a keeper of her secrets. Cadie had played everything like a grand adventure back then. Until the game became real. Maybe she had always hoped the truth would rise one day. Or maybe she had convinced herself that the deeper she hid in the woods, the more gently she walked this Earth, the more likely their secret would stay where they left it—where they left him. Buried in the woods.