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THE SAINTS AND SINNERS OF OKAY COUNTY by Dayna Dunbar Kirkus Star

THE SAINTS AND SINNERS OF OKAY COUNTY

By Dayna Dunbar

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-345-46039-1
Publisher: Ballantine

Oklahoma psychic, in an impressive first from screenwriter Dunbar.

When her good-for-nothing husband Jimmy, a former all-state basketball player, walks out, Aletta Honor realizes she has no way to support her three children—especially not with a fourth on the way. But it’s 1976 and all over Okay County the nation’s bicentennial is being celebrated, along with Czech Day. Plan A: bake kolaches and sell them to parade-watchers. A few hours later, the house is filled with clouds of smoke. She can’t sell burnt pastry, and Plan B, lemonade at ten cents a cup, isn’t going to put food on the table. What next? Hang out a shingle that says “Psychic Reader—Drop-ins Welcome.” Aletta has had the ability to converse with ghosts and see the future lives of others since she was a young girl, though she was often mocked for her dreaminess. Her mother, a staunch member of the Burning Bush Battle Church, an evangelical sect that battles to save lost souls (Okay County is well-represented in this demographic), sure as hell won’t approve. But the desperate people who appear on Aletta’s doorstep are grateful for her help, especially in matters of the heart: Aletta can track down a straying husband and even predict whether the town tramp will find another sucker. And somehow, between readings, she still has to raise Sissy, Ruby, and Randy without their daddy. At the age of 34, handsome Jimmy Honor has gone middle-aged crazy and is fooling around with said tramp, not to mention tooling around in a red-white-and-blue painted van. How’d she ever get into this fix? Flashbacks to her childhood on a hardscrabble farm reveal her love for her father Clovis, who died too soon, and her difficult relationship with her judgmental mother. But life ain’t all bad, and there are a few small miracles in store for her yet. God works in mysterious ways—when He’s paying attention.

A very appealing debut from Dunbar, an Oklahoma native, whose tough-minded tenderness and authentic voice make the most of a slight plot.