Meredith’s coming-of-age novel tells the story of a young woman who, in the wake of her mother’s death, befriends a couple of small town outsiders with whom she forms an important bond.
Taking place primarily in 1968 Mississippi, the book starts and finishes 40 years later with a reunion of friends. After their mother’s death from cancer, 15-year-old Kate and her younger sister, Martha, are left by their father to live with their grandparents in a trailer park in Pascagoula, Miss. After years of nursing her mother and taking care of her emotionally fragile sister, Kate has a pessimistic, world-weary outlook on life. Debut novelist Meredith sensitively, but unflinchingly, portrays the horror that might impact a young girl as she watches her mother die. Kate meets another injured soul in Tom Carmody, whose brother has returned from Vietnam a paraplegic. Tom also carries the secret of his homosexuality. Kate and Tom forge a deep friendship and are joined by Claire, the daughter of the town’s resident communist. Meredith deftly maneuvers between the growing friendships and the turmoil and violence of 1968 America. Tom, Claire and Kate’s adventures to New Orleans and a rinky-dink circus on the outskirts of town expose Kate to the wonders and excitement of life. But Kate’s awakening is squashed by an accident that damages Martha in such a way that the sisters’ lives are never the same. Soon after the accident, Kate and Martha’s father returns to take them away from Pasacagoula and the family of friends that Kate has formed. After 40 years, Kate still takes care of Martha, who, despite being unable to live on her own, has become a successful artist. Kate receives a desperate message from Tom, whom she hasn’t heard from for decades, pleading with her to visit. In the days proceeding Hurricane Katrina, the sisters set off on an adventure, returning to Tom and Claire and setting in motion the resolution and change that Kate has needed to finally get on with her life.
A compelling, beautifully written novel that is an intimate portrayal of friendship and redemption.