A Virginia mom dutifully treading the path toward middle-class respectability is thrown down the rabbit hole when she’s accused of drug dealing and worse.
Despite having been taken from an abusive father and grown up in a series of group homes and foster homes, Melanie Barrick seems to have landed on her feet. While she works as a dispatcher at Diamond Trucking, her husband, Ben, studies history at James Madison University, where his mentor is grooming him for a tenure-track job, and her 3-month-old son, Alex, is taking baby steps toward becoming his own person. The wrecking ball is lowered on Melanie’s life when she’s late picking up Alex at day care and learns that Social Services has already spirited him away after hearing that the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office has found nearly half a kilo of cocaine hidden in the boy’s nursery together with all the evidence they need to convict Melanie of intent to sell. In short order, Melanie is arrested for assaulting a police officer, hauled off to jail, and threatened with five years in prison. Her Social Services hearing is over before it begins, and the preliminary hearing on the criminal charges goes no better. Things couldn’t possibly get any worse—unless she finds out that Ben has been lying to her for months about a very important subject and she’s charged with the murder of a man she’s only seen once before. Deputy commonwealth attorney Amy Kaye, pulled off the case of a serial rapist to slam the prison door on the Coke Mom so that her incompetent, politically minded boss, Aaron Dansby, can burnish his resume and run for higher office, smells a rat, but her attempts to undermine the case against Melanie are as unavailing as her attempts to link the Coke Mom to the Whispering Rapist.
Parks (Say Nothing, 2017, etc.) dishes out another irresistible descent into hell for a heroine who regards her harrowing plight with a sobering verdict: “It was like hitting a new bottom every day.”