This novel is about the Harlan family and their family secrets as told by the teenage granddaughter, Anniston Harlan, “I thought I’d lived through everything by the time I was thirteen.” It starts out with her father and uncle killing one another, which leads to ‘Anni’ discovering the real reason leading up to their deaths. “Instead, I wondered how it came to pass that two brothers---one of them my daddy---were dead. I wondered which came first---the hate or the crime? I wondered if Cain always hated Abel, or if the hate that caused brother to kill brother happens in a flash of evil. Mostly, I wondered what I would do after the red clay covered my daddy and if any of us would ever recover.” The tale describes how abuse is dealt with inside a small Southern Alabama community.
Anni gives clear description of her feelings throughout the story, “…Sin settled in the boughs of [the] Harlan family years ago, and now the boughs were breaking….And yet I wonder what life might be like if we all knew the pain that lay beneath each others’ sleeves.”
One of the characters, Ernestine, their family’s Haitian nanny of thirty-five years, always had a different anecdote for all situations: “Before you laugh at those who limp, check the way you walk….God says, Do your part, and I’ll do mine….Words have wings.” I enjoyed each little epigram placed at the beginning of each chapter. They give cause for thought.
The story itself is compelling and thought provoking. It also gives way to feel compassion for Anni and how she handles numerous circumstances. The author, Amy Sorrells has added Book Club Questions at the end, along with an Author interview. Included are recipes from Bay Spring and the Harlan Family and Friends. I recommend this novel to teenagers and adults alike. They will find it attention-grabbing and most definitely enjoy the bonus recipes.
(I received this book from David C. Cook Publishers for review purposes only)