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SWEET HEARTS by Melanie Rae Thon Kirkus Star

SWEET HEARTS

By Melanie Rae Thon

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 2001
ISBN: 0-395-78589-8
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

A child of rape grows up to become a killer, in this third novel by the Whiting Award–winning author of First, Body (1997).

Frances Zimmer, a Native American girl of mixed heritage, was only 15 when she gave birth to Flint, while the white man who violated her and fathered the boy went unpunished. Frances’s strange, sad son has a taste for violence from a very young age; he sets fires and steals until an unforgiving judge sends him to a brutal reformatory for the next seven years. Isolated in solitary confinement much of the time, the rest terrorized by the other boys (whom he terrorizes in turn), Flint is nearly psychotic by the age of 16. He's cunning enough to stay alive, though, and he cherishes memories of his feckless, alcoholic mother and younger half-sister Cecile, carving their names into the walls of his cell. When Flint is released, his frightened mother, pregnant again, keeps him at a safe distance—literally. Banished under her porch, he sleeps rolled up in a filthy scrap of carpet, emerging only to steal food, money, and small objects, with gleefully amoral Cecile as his willing partner. But no one believes a little girl could be the culprit, and everyone blames Flint. Their mother's deaf sister, Marie, knows instinctively that the troubled boy is doomed, as were so many other family members, including grandmother Rina, who drowned herself. Rina’s poetic recollections of Native American ancestors form a dreamlike subtext to the narrative as Flint sinks deeper into madness and runs wild, taking Cecile with him. The severity of the crimes escalates—until a shattering, bloody climax.

Brilliantly imagined and infused with a raw spirituality that cuts to the bone. Thon writes with lyric power about the lives of lost souls who nonetheless passionately believe in a God “no longer capable of even the smallest miracles.”