Sunday, July 14, 2013

Prayers and Lies by Sherri Wood Emmons

This is the story of two misfit cousins, Bethany and Reana Mae, who spend their summers together in the Coal River Valley of West Virginia with their extended family. These summers only serve to remind Bethany’s mother of the poverty and life of the coal miners and their families that she was lucky enough to escape.

Reana Mae is the only child of a hillbilly wild couple—the miniskirt and go-go boot wearing Jolene and motorcycle riding trucker Bobby Lee. After Jolene loses a baby and Bobby Lee, who is rarely come anyway, begins to stray, eleven-year-old Reana Mae succumbs to a crush on her handsome Uncle Caleb when he moves in with them. She’s growing up too quick, putting on makeup, and wearing her skirts much too short, playing house with Caleb, and skipping school, and Bethany is hurt, and concerned, by these changes and about just how little time her cousin now has for her. Then she and two other friends discover Reana Mae’s secret—they happen upon a mattress in the woods, a blanket, condom wrappers, and Reana Mae’s diary detailing her sex life with Caleb and their plans to marry when she turns thirteen.

When Jolene finds out, she beats her daughter badly and Reana Mae goes to live with Bethany and her family in Indiana where she sticks out like a hillbilly sore thumb. She persists in seeing nothing wrong with her relationship with Caleb, and dreaming of him as some kind of fairy tale prince who will swoop down and carry her away to a wonderful life when she turns thirteen. But the years pass, and Caleb never comes, and Bethany fears that Reana Mae is going to grow up to be just like Jolene, and a bitter feud between Reana Mae and Bethany’s mean-spirited and mentally volatile sister Tracy doesn’t help matters.

Though I admit I did not like this book quite as much as her second one, The Sometime Daughter, and found it a trifle slow at timesthis was an engrossing family drama from start to end and I look forward to reading more books by Sherri Wood Emmons.

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