I’ve been thinking about how to best write about this book by first time author Jess Montgomery. First time author! Wow, Ms. Montgomery writes like an experienced novelist as she effectively creates a place, characters and narrative tension. She has written what I consider to be a truly excellent debut novel.
The Widows are Lily and Marvena, each of whom has children, has lost a husband and is trying not to lose her way. Life in Bronwyn County, Ohio for them and those they love, following WWI is full of hardship. Coal is king and a harsh master. Poverty and company scrip rule many lives.
In this world, Marvena and her common law husband John have worked to organize the miners. This is a freighted and difficult task given the strong arm tactics of the mine owners. Pinkertons are brought in to quell resistance. Other outsiders try to dominate illegal moonshine businesses.
On the surface, Lily’s life looks better. She is married to Sheriff Daniel Ross, a former boxer and half brother to the mine owner. However, early in the novel, Daniel is killed. The circumstances surrounding his death are a central mystery in the novel.
Both Marvena and Lily have relationship history with Daniel. Each realizes that she did not fully know him. As they come to know one another, Lily and Marvena come to also know themselves.
Peopled with many additional characters that come vividly to life, this novel is engaging, realistic and compelling. Put it on your TBR pile for January when it will be released. I recommend this one very highly.
Many thanks to NetGalley, the author and St. Martin’s Minotaur for this fantastic read!