Nicki Salcedo: All Beautiful Things

Nicki Salcedo’s debut novel, All Beautiful Things, is not easy to categorize. Salcedo has combined suspense and romance with rare literary grace. Her heroine, Ava Camden, the privileged daughter of a wealthy Atlanta family, was brutally attacked seven years before the novel opens, physically and emotionally scarred by the man who slashed her face for no apparent reason. Joel Sapphire, the young athlete found crouching over her, knife All Beautiful Thingsin hand, was arrested, convicted, and jailed for the crime. Ava has retreated from the world, hiding her scars and devoting herself to the homeless shelter she founded. She has no doubt that Joel Sapphire was her attacker, although the young man was so drunk that night that he could neither explain nor defend himself. She knows she is badly broken, and all she wants to do is survive in her own hidden way.

Joel’s older brother, Graham, is convinced that Ava’s attacker is still walking free. He has tried for years to contact her by mail, and now that Joel has been paroled—and disappeared—Graham is more determined than ever to clear his brother’s name. But first he must confront Ava and convince her that Joel is innocent, a thought that threatens the fragile stability she has fought to maintain.

All Beautiful Things deals with much more than the mystery behind the attack on Ava. Ava is African-American and grew up in wealth and privilege; Graham is white and grew up in poverty on the tough streets of Atlanta. With no other explanation, was the attack on her a hate crime? Graham can’t believe that of his brother. Ava hides the ugly scars on her face; Graham barely sees them. But it will take both of them to discover the truth behind the attack and heal the scars that bind them together. Salcedo has packed more than I could imagine into a compact but deeply touching novel. Read it. You won’t be sorry.