There isn’t much of anything but crushing poverty in the holler, making hope hard to sustain.
Wavie hasn’t even left the cemetery where her mother’s funeral was held before a stranger, her ignorant and mean aunt, Samantha Rose, shows up to take the grieving 12-year-old back to the family home in Conley Holler. That house, “a whole new level of despair,” turns out to be more hovel than home, part of the reason Wavie’s mom turned her back on it years ago. It’s quickly obvious that Samantha’s interest is motivated by Wavie’s Social Security check—not affection or family ties. Befriended by resilient neighbor kids Gilbert and Camille, Wavie eventually finds a way to achieve the good life that her mom promised her she deserved. Wavie has a delightfully memorable first-person voice that includes pithy observations, such as “If the [war on poverty] was over, my new neighborhood was proof we’d lost.” She’s so engaged with the people around her that her perceptions breathe full life into a range of characters, from the school principal who high-fives students (while secretly checking for lice) to an elderly, confused ex-lawyer grieving for his beloved lost son. Camille and her Mexican-American family are some of the few people of color in this mostly white, not universally welcoming Kentucky community. If things work out a bit too well for real life, this glimpse of happiness can be forgiven.
A moving and richly engaging tale of despair and redemption. (Fiction. 10-14)