From Publishers Weekly
O'Dell, whose debut, Back Roads
(2000), was an Oprah pick, returns with a terrific third novel set in a Pennsylvania coal country of broken families, altercations and smalltown coping. Policewoman-turned-cabbie Shae-Lynn Penrose, a little over 40 and back in Jolly Mount after a rent-a-cop stint in Washington, D.C., raised son Clay (24 and the town deputy) on her own. For the past 18 years, she has believed that her sister, Shannon, was killed by their abusive father while Shae-Lynn was at college. (Their mother died of complications after giving birth to Shannon; their father was killed much later in a mine explosion.) When a New York lawyer turns up asking for Shannon Penrose, whom he seems to have seen recently, Shae-Lynn is shocked; when Shannon herself suddenly turns up, very pregnant, Shae-Lynn's reaction is primal and tactile. As O'Dell slowly unspools Shannon's very-much-of-her-own-doing predicament, O'Dell demonstrates her mastery of set-piece dialogue, reeling off stingingly acute encounters that are as funny as they can be crushingly sad. Ne'er-do-well Choker Simms (and his two kids, Fanci and Kenny), lawyer Gerald Kozlowski, mine owner Cam Jack, Shae-Lynn's nonboyfriend E.J., Shannon's sort-of-boyfriend Dmitri and others are all wonderfully drawn through Shae-Lynn's keen observations. Family saga O'Dell-style crackles with conflict and a deep understanding of the complications and burdens that follow attachment, sex, love and kinship. (Mar.)
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*Starred Review* Past the wordplay of the title and the cowboy boot on the jacket, this is a masterfully unfolded, absolutely engrossing story as smart and sassy as it is wise. At 40, Shae-Lynn Penrose has overcome a mostly motherless, abusive childhood and a teenage pregnancy to finish college, work for the D.C. Capitol Police, raise her son alone, and return to her coal-mining hometown of Jolly Mount, Pennsylvania. Here she runs a one-vehicle cab company; her father died in a mine; her best friend, E. J., was one of the Jolly Mount 5, whose survival after a mine explosion made headlines; and her son, Clay, is a deputy for Sheriff Ivan Zoschenko (from O'Dell'sCoal Run
, 2004). Then Shannon, the younger sister Shae-Lynn thought long dead, shows up and reveals an unorthodox means of making money that's causing a ruckus. Dealing with a burgeoning love affair and revelation of parentage, plus the surviving miners' intent to sue the coal company, O'Dell also examines such issues as abuse, betrayal, abandonment, perseverance, and reconciliation, with love at the heart of it all, in crisp, insightful prose that sweeps the reader along. A knockout. Michele LeberCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved