Friday, August 16, 2013

The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey

The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey
Copyright 2013
William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins) - Contemporary-historical fiction with a touch of mystery
358 pp.

First Sentence: 

Hannah Krause drew the back of her hand over her eyes and, careful of the squeaking bedsprings, slowly rolled onto her side.


In 1890, Jacob Krause is murdered in his bed.  His eldest son, Joseph, cheats Jacob's second wife, Hannah, and her son Willie out of their portion of the farm after Hannah is blamed for Jacob's death. But, Hannah is innocent and 130 years later the mystery remains unsolved.

In 2012, Kate marries Joseph's descendant, Joe, and moves to the same farm where the family has been living under a curse for over 130 years.  There, she finds that Joe is not the gentle man who wooed her but a violent man who is barely hanging onto the family farm.  And, there's another surprise waiting.  Joe's mother, Trudy, a bitter woman who belittles Kate and treats her like a household slave.

Kate tries to be what her husband and mother-in-law want her to be, eventually realizing she must place her own needs first.  But, even as she's trying to work things out with Joe and get back on an even keel, history suddenly repeats itself.  As Kate tries to dig into the past to find out what exactly happened to Hannah and her son Willie and prove herself innocent of murder, she finds that to ask about Hannah is to enter forbidden territory.

My thoughts:

Yet another story with a historical woman's tale told in parallel with a contemporary tale, The Widows of Braxton County is about murder, greed and how violence is passed down through generations. I gave The Widows of Braxton County a high rating because I was in the midst of a slump and the story sucked me in, right away.  I loved the hint of mystery (just enough to keep the plot moving but not enough to toss it into the mystery genre) and the way Kate summoned the strength to do what she needed to do after trying her best to please people who were far too headstrong to respond positively.  The Widows of Braxton County is as much about the differences between life for women 130 years ago vs. today as it is a mystery with a touch of the paranormal.

Recommended - While not brilliant and extremely quotable, I thought Jess McConkey's writing was solid, the plot gripping and the two female characters upon whom the book is focused great characters.  I rooted for both of them, hoping they would go on to have happy lives.  Occasionally, I found that I had trouble remembering which side of the family (Joseph's or Willie's) the characters referred to in dialogue, so a family tree diagram would have been helpful but a little confusion was never enough to slow the reading down significantly.

I received a copy of The Widows of Braxton County by mistake from HarperCollins and chose to review it.  What a terrific mistake that turned out to be!  I really enjoyed the story and am grateful that it was around when nothing else was appealing to me.

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

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