My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Kathy Hepinstall’s The Book of Polly is a story of mothers and daughters, the secrets we keep, and how our past affects our lives. What makes this book stand out, though, are the wonderfully complex and quirky characters. Polly of the book’s title is the most complex of them all. Seen through the eyes of her youngest child, Willow, who wasn’t born until Polly was in her late fifties, Polly’s character takes on almost mythical proportions.
Willow, who lives in fear of her mother’s death, describes her mother as uncompromising, all-knowing, and impervious to what other’s think of her. It is only as Willow grows into adolescence that she (and the reader) see Polly’s humanity. Under her tough as nails elegance, is a kind heart and a deep fear of facing her past.
But, with the help of more lovably unique characters, – my favorite of which is Phoenix, who is perfectly perfect – Polly does face her past and Willow gets answers to the questions she’s had all of her life. This all leads to an ending that, for me, was surprisingly satisfying.
If you enjoy southern fiction with strong female central characters like The Book of Polly, I recommend reading Joshilyn Jackson’s novels such as Gods in Alabama. If it is the child narrator you like or the mother-daughter story, you can read J. Ryan Stradal’s Kitchen’s of the Great Midwest or Annie Weatherwax’s All We Had. The Book of Polly is unique, therefore it is difficult to pinpoint just one other book like it.