A stunning literary fiction debut. This is the kind of book you read for the language, words that translate scenery into emotional story world. The story is a richly-shaded portrait of a small hardscrabble town in Texas – and the women who survive it.

The narrative line about the near deadly assault on a young girl by the son of a prominent town elder connects the tales of many women in the town. Their stories spiral out and return to describe the hardscrabble life with rich and detailed brushstrokes. I took pictures of a few pages, where the sentences exposed the subtle and searing wound that this reader had been feeling for pages. For example, there is a long list of silly ways that men can die in Odessa, but women only die by the hands of men. The book description talks about race and class, but this book gets far more personal, with family and grief and hope and the challenges that only women must bear.

Some of these chapters were clearly written as stand-alone stories, and the it requires focus to see the threads that link them to the story’s core. The tangents are both thematic and part of the larger picture, so the novel is ultimately stronger for them. At first, I had trouble remembering a few character’s names, since they are women’s first names that mark chapters of alternating points of view and they share the same language, the same style of internal dialogue rich with emotional description. Yet what these characters are doing and saying make it quickly clear who is who.

This is a book that must have taken years to write, so delicious is every sentence, so clear are the diversions each character follows, not for narrative drive, but to immerse the reader in the story. Take your time and enjoy it.

Leslie reviews books from a writer’s perspective. Her curated list of 5 star books guarantees that they are worth your time – and her reviews explain why. Follow her on Goodreads for over 200 more reviews, and on Twitter for updates.

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