One morning in Verra, a town nestled into the hillsides of West Virginia, the young Myrthen Bergmann is playing tug-of-war with her twin, when her sister is killed. Read more...
One morning in Verra, a town nestled into the hillsides of West Virginia, the young Myrthen Bergmann is playing tug-of-war with her twin, when her sister is killed. Unable to accept her own guilt, Myrthen excludes herself from all forms of friendship and affection and begins a twisted, haunted life dedicated to God. Meanwhile, her neighbor Alta Krol longs to be an artist even as her days are taken up caring for her widowed father and siblings. Everything changes when Myrthen marries the man Alta loves. Fourteen years later, we meet Lidia, a teenage girl in the same town, and her precocious son, Gabriel. When Gabriel starts telling eerily prescient stories that hint at Verra's long-buried secrets, it's not long before the townspeople begin to suspect that the boy harbors evil spirits--an irresistible state of affairs for Myrthen and her obsession with salvation.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-01-12
- Reviewer: Staff
Cander’s follow-up to 2013’s 11 Stories is inextricably rooted in West Virginia coal country—the rough locale that determines and intertwines her characters’ fates. The obligation-vs.-love plot is divided into two parts: the first half introduces two women, Myrthen, a beauty with an unsettling dark streak who devotes herself to God after her twin sister’s death, and Alta, a housewife with an artist’s soul. Cander closely tracks how Myrthen’s and Alta’s romantic decisions unknowingly complicate each other’s lives in the lead-up to a tragic incident that bisects the novel. Picking up their story 17 years later, Cander then homes in on Lidia, a young mother who meets good-witch Alta and bad-witch Myrthen. It reads like standard smalltown dramatic fare—that is, until a paranormal twist: Lidia’s son develops uncanny foresight. Cander’s exploration of these promising interpersonal dynamics is encumbered by cliché, inconsistencies of structure and character, and an awkwardly rigid chronological frame, but she admirably captures the lack of choice that men and women have in rural West Virginia. “It’s called a ‘mine’ for a reason,” one character states. “’Cause everybody’s working to support their own. I’ll be working to support mine.” (Mar.)