Last year I read and reviewed this author’s first book, The Widows. I thought it was a fantastic book, one that seemed very much the work of a seasoned author. I was very, very excited to receive this second novel in the series from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press; thank you!! I adored this book although I do acknowledge that it covers some very difficult topics.
The plot has much to do with events that happened in this small, mountain, Ohio community during the Civil War. Those occurrences have haunted lives and are re-awakened in the present. The past and present intertwine as, during both time periods, there were many strains, struggles and injustices centered on race and discrimination. Kudos to the author for making the time period vivid and memorable, if not easy. Readers will learn something about the WKKK, an organization that I wish had never existed and about women who could be placed in asylums by the men in their lives. Mysteries will be solved but not in a merry, we can all be happy sort of way.
The characters are so well portrayed. They are complex, struggling, some honorable, some not. The main protagonist, Lily, a female sheriff, is beautifully brought to life as are her close friends Marvena and a struggling Hildy. I was so happy to meet up with them again.
This new novel can be read as a standalone. However, you may be so caught up in the lives of these people and their time, that you will read both novels in some order.
I give this book five stars, something that I do not do lightly or often. If you enjoy this one, I would also highly recommend that you read the books by Julia Keller.
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!