Sarah used to be a normal, well-adjusted kid. She loved art, idolized her older brother, and lived in the shelter of the blissful ignorance that is common to very young children (even when everything is everything but ok). Then came the family vacation to Mexico when Sarah was 10. The one that changed everything. This is when her parents stopped speaking to each other. When her older brother vanished and never came back.
Flash-forward to when Sarah is 16 and a complete hot mess. She stops going to school and stops anything to do with art. She can't tell you why she does what she does. Just that she simply can't continue. Instead, she spends her days wandering around the city, speculating about a homeless man (called Earl) and conversing with 10-year-old, 23-year-old, and 40-year-old versions of herself. Readers can only guess that Sarah has some serious baggage to work out, baggage that has everything to do with the events of that fateful family trip when she was 10. Despite her behavior, she actually DOES want to work things out. But first she has to remember what happened to make her the way she is.
If the plot snyposis of A.S. King's latest novel Still Life With Tornado sounds exceptionally convoluted, you're absolutely right. It does. This amazing book is one of those that can only be properly experienced in the actual reading. You can't figure thing out by skimming reviews. Any spoilers I could give you would make no sense (and I wouldn't give spoilers for a story like this anyway). You just have to read it for yourself.
And you absolutely should! --AJB