From veteran Knight (Eveningland, 2017, etc.), a deft, charming Southern coming-of-age novel—one that pays both attention and tribute to the legacy of the million-pound behemoth in that genre, To Kill a Mockingbird.
It's early spring 1994. Lenore Littlefield, a junior at the Briarwood School for Girls, is trying hard to concentrate on the end of basketball season and on the usual dorm rivalries and roommate strife rather than on the secret that she's shared, and plans to share, with no one: She's pregnant. Meanwhile, as punishment for a minor curfew violation, she's sentenced to help fill out the sparse ranks of the drama club, which, after years of resistance, will be staging the Pulitzer-winning play by Briarwood's most renowned alumna, now a Harper Lee–like rural recluse who's ceased to write. When the fill-in director, Lenore's hoops coach, Patricia Fink, moves Lenore into the lead role of a bright, troubled boarding school girl who's visited by the Phantom of Thornton Hall, strange things start happening and unexpected possibilities arise. Meanwhile, the Disney company—seeing in Civil War–battlefield-rich Virginia a fertile ground for attracting tourists—has acquired a massive nearby tract and is planning to develop it into a theme park called America (one harrowing example Knight gives of what this might look like is a ride designed to give rich kids and their parents a sense of what the Middle Passage felt like). Lenore's uncomfortable confidant, Bishop, the history teacher to whom she one day blurts her secret, thinks that if only he can get the playwright to emerge from exile for opening night, he can get the old firebrand to say something that will bring publicity and send the Mouse scurrying back to its corporate hole.
A quick-paced, sharp, cleverly designed book by a talented writer.