In this brilliantly written novel, a girl who lives with her con-artist grandfather after her parents have gone wandering hopes to lead a more honest life but must scheme to get by when he dies suddenly.
Charlie looks much older than her 14 years when she dresses up and puts on makeup, enough to fool a social worker who comes to call. Charlie and Grandpa run a moonshine business and the Glory Alleluia Chapel to make ends meet, and Grandpa has started a small pyramid scheme that helps Charlie stay afloat after he dies. Between that and insurance fraud, he’s buried money all over his large wooded property. Hoping to avoid an orphanage, Charlie hides Grandpa’s body and stashes the cash. A 30-ish cowboy type, Blake, turns up after an affair with Charlie’s absent mother; he clearly knows about the buried money and uses that knowledge as leverage. As much a grifter as Grandpa ever was, he builds up the family religion business by passing off Charlie as a miracle worker. Can Charlie escape him too and pursue her own dreams of becoming a writer? Egan tells the story in Charlie’s first-person countrified style, but with True Grit–style lofty grammar and sentence structure, in keeping with Charlie’s abundant talent. It’s this highly literary, easily accessible writing that lifts this story to the very top of the heap.
Simply delicious fun from start to finish. (Fiction. 12 & up)