by Jenny Wingfield
First sentence: “John Moses couldn’t have chosen a worse day, or a worse way to die, if he’d planned it for a lifetime.”
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I finished this several days ago — having devoured it almost entirely in one sitting — and I’m still at a loss how to put my thoughts on this book into words.
The plot centers around the Moses family in 1950s Arkansas. John Moses, the patriarch, has been slowly drinking himself into oblivion, and at a family reunion, decides he can’t take any more and kills himself. This propels Willadee’s, John’s only daughter, husband, Sam Lake, back to Arkansas — granted, he didn’t have a church assignment for the year, so being unemployed kind of helped — to try and figure out what God wants him to do with his life. Their three children — Noble, Bienville, and Swan (yes, that is her name) — try to adjust to life as something other than preacher’s kids. Especially after they meet the neighbor’s boy, Blade Ballenger.
Actually, it was Blade’s father that kept me turning pages. And that solely because he’s the most hateful character I’ve read since Kristin Cashore’s Lek. He was pure evil, and many of his actions were more than difficult to stomach. And yet, I kept reading, desperately needing to know whether or not he got what I felt he deserved. I suppose it’s wrong to spend a book wishing someone would die a violent death, but there you have it: I wished it, and I wished it hard. (I was also depressed to realize that people like that exist. Still. It’s horrible.)
Even with the evil running through the pages, it wasn’t a dark book. There is a lot of love and hope in the pages as well. And thoughts about religion and God, too. And the characters were written — from John’s wife, Calla through to the rest of the family — in ways that made them all unique and fully fleshed out. And I really didn’t think there were any words out of place, which is unusual for me and an adult novel.
All of which made this one a book to both devour and savor.