This book is fiction, but many of the themes are the same as in Elegy: people in isolated communities, living in poverty, with addiction and violence, and no easy way out.
I was pleasantly surprised by this novel, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
First of all, It includes strong women characters, one is Sadie, who has followed the usual path in marrying a bad husband too young, but she has a plan. And another character who isn’t even mentioned in the publisher’s notes, Miss Shaw, a teacher who comes to the area to attempt to make a difference, was my favorite. No previous teacher has lasted very long in this area.
The story is told by alternating (mostly women) point of views in a readable Appalachian dialect. While Sadie gets inspiration from Loretta Lynn songs, Sadie’s grandma, who also once did what she had to do, pays tribute to Mother Jones who called out the coal mining industry:
“Mother Jones don’t like that coal miners put a pile of gold coins in rich men’s pockets and nary a penny in their own. If daddies got hurt, boys got sent into the mines. When bills weren’t paid, then families got put out on the road -their stuff crammed in a paper poke. If a man was to say out loud That ain’t right, he’d be gone without a trace. When Mother Jones says That ain’t right, folks listen.”
There is an interesting dynamic and friendship between Miss Shaw (an atheist) and the town preacher, another good character. Not all the characters are likeable but mostly we find out why they are the way they are, for example the preacher’s sister Prudence, who can’t stand the happiness Miss Shaw is bringing to the children of the community:
“I come to the schoolhouse and look in the windows at an odd sight. The children twirl and whirl with their arms up and out, and old Miss Shaw does the same thing. Even through closed windows I hear their voices singsong, Autumn leaves are falling down…yellow, red, orange, and brown! At the end little heads drop from sight as bodies fall to the floor and giggle. Then the door flies open, and boys and girls with rosy cheeks spill out and swirl past me. I’m shot through with envy at simple joy that won’t mind, and anger grabs me so tight I can’t breathe.“
I found this a solid, entertaining, and interesting read in a setting I wanted to know more about.
I am participating in a blog tour on this book and you can sign up to win a copy of the book here:
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to download this book in exchange for an honest review.