A book that you want to share with everyone you know and one that you are desperate to keep in your own possession. A masterful debut and a new and thrilling voice for readers across the globe. --Sarah Jessica Parker, on Instagram
It's 1974 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and fifteen-year-old Justine grows up in a family of tough, complicated, and loyal women presided over by her mother, Lula, and Granny. After Justine's father abandoned the family, Lula became a devout member of the Holiness Church - a community that Justine at times finds stifling and terrifying. But Justine does her best as a devoted daughter until an act of violence sends her on a different path forever.
Crooked Hallelujah tells the stories of Justine--a mixed-blood Cherokee woman-- and her daughter, Reney, as they move from Eastern Oklahoma's Indian Country in the hopes of starting a new, more stable life in Texas amid the oil bust of the 1980s. However, life in Texas isn't easy, and Reney feels unmoored from her family in Indian Country. Against the vivid backdrop of the Red River, we see their struggle to survive in a world--of unreliable men and near-Biblical natural forces, like wildfires and tornados--intent on stripping away their connections to one another and their very ideas of home.
In lush and empathic prose, Kelli Jo Ford depicts what this family of proud, stubborn, Cherokee women sacrifices for those they love, amid larger forces of history, religion, class, and culture. This is a big-hearted and ambitious novel of the powerful bonds between mothers and daughters by an exquisite and rare new talent.
- ISBN-13: 9780802149121
- ISBN-10: 080214912X
- Publisher: Grove Press
- Publish Date: July 2020
- Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.85 pounds
- Page Count: 304
Kelli Jo Ford’s first book, composed of interlocking stories set in Oklahoma and North Texas, is like a wildfire that slowly approaches a home and then whips through an entire region. Crooked Hallelujah opens in 1974 and introduces four generations of Cherokee women: Granny, Lula, Justine and Reney. The women are as intertwined as they are distinct, adhering to their own codes and overshadowing the men in their lives.
Granny, the matriarch of the clan, shares a bedroom with her daughter, Lula, a devoted follower of a Holy Roller-like church. Lula’s rebellious 15-year-old daughter, Justine, resists her mother’s religious affiliation. After Justine is raped, she gives birth to blue-eyed Reney. Gradually, Granny cedes center stage to Lula and Justine, who try to make a life amid the poverty of their town.
Several powerful pieces stand out in this novel-in-stories. In one, grown-up Reney, now married, works at a Dairy Queen while trying to attend school. She also manages the small cattle ranch on which she and her husband live. One day, Reney’s beloved mule goes missing, and her search leads to a devastating act of violence. In another chaotic piece, Justine is packing up to leave Texas and return to Oklahoma, but a wildfire lights the horizon, forcing a change in her plans. In a stirring, believable hospital scene, in which Lula has suffered a massive stroke, relatives sing their church songs while Justine tries to comfort and come to terms with her mother.
Crooked Hallelujah is an imperfect work. Some tales, such as that of a lesbian couple menaced in their trailer home, seem out of place, and readers may find the timeline difficult to follow. But Ford’s voice rises above the tumult, sharing the stories of women whose lives have been injured and upended but who will never be silent.