Reviews, Woman's Fiction

Review: The Book of Polly

The Book of PollyThe Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall

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.

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Reviews, World Literature

Review: Gods in Alabama

3 Stars

GodsIt’s been nearly a week since I finished reading this book and I’m still undecided about how I feel about Joshilyn Jackson’s Gods in Alabama. While the novel is extremely well-written, I could never quite get comfortable with the main character/narrator or her story. And I’ve never been more uncomfortable reading anything as I was reading the *gags* roach scene. I seriously considered putting the book down then and there but my librarian friend loves Jackson’s books so I felt compelled to push through and find out why.
Like I said, Gods in Alabama is well-written. The author writes in such a way that the reader feels as if they are being “not” lied to by Arlene/Lena (even her name isn’t straightforward) along with the other characters. There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot as the narrator tells and retells the story with strategic omissions. Even after it was all said and done, I’m still not sure I completely believe the truth.

If you enjoy Gods in Alabama perhaps you’ll also enjoy Elizabeth Joy Arnold’s The Book of Secrets, another novel full of twists and half-told tales.