EMPTY PLACES by Kathy Cannon Wiechman


Age Range: 9 - 12
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Secrets dog a motherless girl and her family.

Adabel's mother has been missing for seven years. No one in the tiny mining town of Smoke Ridge, Kentucky, knows a lick about her; most figure she ran off to get away from her no-account husband, who gets drunk on moonshine now that Prohibition is the law of the land. Adabel's sisters, Raynelle and Blissie, and her brother, Pick, all recall a time just after Mama left when they were parceled out to neighbors, but Adabel has no such memories—and almost none at all of her mother. Now she's 13, and the secrets are starting to worry her. Times are so tight that Raynelle flirts with the grocer's boy to get food for them to eat; after a fight with their father, Pick lights out for parts unknown. Then Blissie is badly hurt. Adabel has to find her brother—and, in doing so, unravels the family secrets. Wiechman makes the interesting choice to tell Adabel's story in Appalachian dialect, and it works surprisingly well: "Onliest reason [remarks] was said in whispers was to make sure us Cutlers knew we wasn't fit to be spoke of out loud." Less successful is the denouement—the secrets being hidden are too large to have been plausibly contained in such a small world for such a long time.

Still, Adabel is a sympathetic character, and the novel offers an unsentimental, accurate glimpse into an era's past. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 5th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-62979-451-8
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2016


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