Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Also, warning, this review DOES contain spoilers.
Start to finish, this book was beautifully written. Leah Weiss deserves credit for weaving a beautifully told tale that captivates readers, allowing them to appreciate and sympathize with the people of Appalachia.
However, there were a few parts of the novel that just felt a little... unnecessary. At the end of the copy I received, the story is framed as being about Sadie. And while that does feel true, there is a significant portion of the novel dedicated to Kate Shaw (the teacher), Eli (the preacher), and Prudence (Eli's sister who tries to get rid of Kate). This storyline, revolving around Eli falling in love with Kate, a woman who is in a relationship with another woman named Rachel, and Prudence using a letter from Rachel to try and get Kate run out of town. This story is never returned to; instead, Kate is roped back into Sadie's story when she loses the baby. That's fine and good... but what happens to Kate? What does Prudence do? Does Eli find out about Kate?
This is an entire plot line that is introduced, followed, and then promptly abandoned in favor of Sadie's much less interesting story. No offense, Sadie. On another note, we also get some amazing parts from Sadie's grandmother, but then, we also never hear from her again. It's disappointing to meet these great characters and then have them promptly abandoned.
The end of the novel just felt too tidy. We get a story about Roy and Billy disposing of Darlene's body. Darlene is a sex worker in town who Roy falls in love with and starts paying attention to instead of beating Sadie, which is nice. However, he discovers that when he runs out of money, Darlene immediately starts seeing other men (because he apparently struggles with the concept of what a sex worker does and thought Darlene was in love with him), so he kills her. We then jump to Sadie deciding to finally kill Roy. She makes some hemlock poison, mixes it with Roy's moonshine, and then... it turns out Billy shoots Roy while they're hunting. Ok. Cool. That's...? Simple. It's just too tidy. The rest of the novel felt messy: Kate and the preacher, Kate and Rachel back home, the medicine woman, the violence of the entire area... and then, in the end, Sadie gets the job done for her by Billy.
She then tells Billy to take Roy's moonshine, obviously with the intent to kill him. Again, that's cool, but it's just a little too easy, isn't it? Someone does the work for her, she then offs that person to make sure no one ever finds out (and also to prevent herself from having to fall in with Billy as, I don't know, a favor in return for killing Roy?), and the novel just ends.
We don't find out about Kate and Rachel; we don't find out about Prudence and what she does; we don't find out about Eli. We never see Marris or Gladys again, or Birdie, or anyone else. These characters just disappear at the end of the novel and we're expected to believe that the story was only about Sadie all along. No, the story was about ALL of them, so all of the storylines need to be wrapped up.
It's frustrating to get to the end of a novel that truly had me enraptured... only to find the last page is the last page and not everything is done. Sadie got her ending, but what about everyone else? What about the family that Sadie went to see in the store, whose son had been injured in a mine? What happened to him? There are so many pieces of information we are given that are never followed up on and from a reader's standpoint, that's just sloppy storytelling.
The book is beautifully written, truly. The story was enchanting. But I feel in the end, Weiss perhaps lost steam and decided to end with Sadie. Which is her choice, ultimately, but it doesn't feel like the right one. I also suspect that a fair amount of editing whittled down the story and perhaps created the thread, via Eli, Prudence, and Kate, needed to get back to Sadie. It just feels abrupt for the reader though. Again, all that being said, a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading and would read again.
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