How This Hidden Gem Stopped Me in My Tracks and Why You Should Read It

I love finding new writers. Don’t you?

I especially enjoy it when the writer is my age or older. Gives me hope, don’t you know? (I was born in 1965, the writer was born in 1957.)

Books are so good for us for so many reasons, but I think the most significant is that they teach us empathy. 

We imagine what it’s like to be something other than ourselves. 

The main characters are girls in their late teens. One is black and experiences racism, and the other has to live with an abusive father. Education and upbringing limit both girls. 

I’m a white, college-educated male. (Plus, I’m old.) 

I scoffed a bit as I read this book. I didn’t believe in the character’s actions. I couldn’t imagine them doing or not doing the things asked of them in the plot. 

I caught myself, though. I reminded myself that I wasn’t a 17-year-old black girl living in the deep South in the 1920s. So, how the heck would I know what she would or would not do? 

The other girl is 16. She’s forced to drop out of school. Her mother has passed away, and she lives with an abusive father. She ran away with a traveling musician at the age of 15. The book opens with her returning home. 

It’s hard not to get frustrated with her lack of confidence and unwillingness to try new things. 

But for me, at least, it was easy to remember that I’m not her and have no valid basis for judging her actions. It was cool to just sit back and learn, and not judge. 

What an incredible gift. I couldn’t put the book down, but I also learned what life’s like for other people. 

Background 

There is a lot of chatter about this book on the internet. 

It’s a USA Today bestseller. 

Google returns 4,320 hits when you search for the title. Dig a little, and you’ll find many sites that loved the book. 

The Country Bookshop said it was the #1 best-selling paperback of 2021. (Okay, you caught me. The Country Bookshop is in North Carolina, and surprise, the author, lives in N. Carolina. But still…) 

Look at what Publishers Weekly has to say. 

“Remarkable debut…. [a] nearly flawless tale of loss, perseverance, and redemption.” — Publishers Weekly, STARRED review


A plot summary from the publisher

Set in 1920s Mississippi, this debut Southern novel weaves a beautiful and harrowing story of two teenage girls cast in an unlikely partnership through murder — perfect for readers of Where the Crawdads Sing and If the Creek Don’t Rise.

Ada promised herself she would never go back to the Trace, to her hard life on the swamp and her harsh father. But now, after running away to Baton Rouge and briefly knowing a different kind of life, she finds herself with nowhere to go but back home. And she knows there will be a price to pay with her father.

Matilda, daughter of a sharecropper, is from the other side of the Trace. Doing what she can to protect her family from the whims and demands of some particularly callous locals is an ongoing struggle. She forms a plan to go north, to pack up the secrets she’s holding about her life in the South and hang them on the line for all to see in Ohio.


What did I think? 

Books that entertain and teach at the same time are all too rare. 

For that reason alone, it’s worth your time. 

The main characters are believable and likeable, so much so that I, a person who has nothing in common with them, loved the book. 

I would be aghast if you read it and didn’t care about the ending. 

Surely there must be some faults in a first novel? 

The middle of the book is all about character development, and I guess some of you might find that boring. 

It’s not; internal struggles, conflict, and growth make for absorbing reading when you like and care about what happens to the characters. 

I predicted the last conflict in the book. But, I certainly didn’t anticipate the resolution.

I listen to books while riding a spin bike. The ending was so good that I listened to the rest of the book after completing my ride while standing in the cold basement in my sweaty workout clothes, putting off my shower until I finished. 

Read this book! It has my official seal of approval, and I guarantee it will leave you satisfied. 


Hey! If you liked this review, think about following me. I’m mighty close to the magic number of 100 followers, and it’d be cool to tell people that I’m a blogger. Plus, I promise to follow you back. 

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