Haines (Summer of the Redeemers, 1994) ladles on the pluck and grit as she limns the life of Mattie, a strong woman who comes to live in a preternaturally mean Mississippi town, where she faces down the local bigots, survives a severe spousal beating, and exacts a deadly revenge. Jexville in 1926, as 16-year-old mail-order bride Mattie soon learns, is a town where intolerance is as unavoidable as the humidity. The people are devout, suspicious, narrow-minded. They're also hypocrites: The men drink bootleg liquor; the women are malicious; and both sexes support a husband's right to beat his wife. To be in any way different is to invite trouble, which is exactly what Mattie's new friend JoHanna McVay, married to handsome Will, a purveyor of moonshine to political bigwigs, often does. Mattie, newly married to Elikah, the town's barber, meets JoHanna and her nine-year-old daughter, Duncan, at a children's party. Duncan, struck by lightning, soon acquires the ability to foretell the future. Then Mattie is violently beaten and sexually humiliated by Elikah. Pregnant, she decides not to have his child. JoHanna, accordingly, arranges for an illegal abortion and tries to convince Mattie to leave Elikah, but JoHanna soon has troubles of her own: Duncan's accurate predictions of death and destruction convince the locals that she's a child of Satan. The McVays decide to go into hiding; Floyd, a friend of Mattie and Duncan's, is brutally murdered; and Mattie kills a local bootlegger as she tries to escape murderous Elikah. In the long calm post-mayhem, Mattie remains married, but Elikah, no longer a wife-beater, plans a deadly revenge. As WW II begins, another frightening prediction from the now-adult Duncan finally impels Mattie to wreak her own vengeance. Action overload as Mattie and friends more than prove their credentials as cool, modern, and independent women able to cope with everything.
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