From Publishers Weekly
Nestled in a web of murder, rape, abuse and adultery is the often happy and always loving home of Huston ("Hughie") Curtiss. His memoir, which roots itself in the events of 1929, when he's only seven years old, reveals a slice of the eccentric life of one white West Virginian family. Hughie's mother, the powerful, progressive and indefatigable Billy-Pearl, heads the family and has a knack for attracting the desperate and destitute. She adopts a motley crew, including a castrated orphan who becomes a successful opera singer, a black family running from the KKK and a homeless schoolteacher. The seventh of 11 daughters, Billy tries her best-with the help of her ever-expanding extended family-to eradicate prejudice, abuse and poverty. Together the extended family struggles through the '29 stock market collapse and the dangerous racism plaguing the South, resorting to measures as drastic as murder to keep themselves safe. Hughie's seven-year-old's perspective-from which much of the book is written-often colors the tale. Like other children his age, Hughie sees his mother as larger than life and capable of saving the world. But this bias is tempered by Hughie's slight resentment toward her as he vies for her attention. The author draws himself as a sometimes selfish but caring child who has to learn that the world needs Billy as much as he does. This vibrant and unsentimental account intertwines the fates of dozens of unique characters and moves smoothly from one remarkable-and often unbelievable-story to the next.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The seventh sister of the title is Curtiss' mother, Billy Pearl, the seventh out of 10 daughters. An unconventional woman, to say the least, Billy ran the family farm in West Virginia after she separated from Curtiss' father, an alcoholic and a philanderer. Curtiss was only seven in 1929 when Billy took in Stanley, a quiet, 16-year-old boy who murdered his abusive father and was castrated on the order of a cruel judge. Determined to give Stanley a good life, Billy taught him to be a horse trainer and also indulged his desire to sing--dressed up as a woman. Billy constantly championed the rights of the oppressed and fought against the Ku Klux Klan members plaguing the area. When necessary, Billy went as far as committing murder. Alhough Curtiss purports in the introduction to tell the story of his life growing up with Stanley, who later became the famous opera singer Stella Roman, most of his memoir is devoted to his extraordinary mother and her eccentric family. A quirky, unique look at a bygone era. Kristine HuntleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved