Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Book Review: The Widows: A Novel by Jess Montgomery

This is a historical novel that feels like a Western. It's set in rural, Appalachian Ohio in the 1920, but it feels older and more Western than that, as this neck of the woods was a bit behind the times. And like you sometimes get in those old Westerns, this is a story of the gumption of two strong women, both lightly based on real historical women.

The first one, Lily, is married to the town sheriff, and she runs the jail, which is in the back of their house (think: The Andy Griffith Show.) Until one day he is shot and killed, transporting a prisoner from the mine back to the jail. Except Lily doesn't believe that prisoner killed him. And luckily, she's appointed his replacement, so she's in an excellent position to look into his death further. (Based on the real first female sheriff in Ohio.)

She meet up with Marvena, whose husband was recently killed in a mining explosion. Marvena had been a good friend of Lily's husband, and rumored to be more. But they ignore the rumors and band together to find out what's really going on behind the scenes in their town. Marvena is organizing the miners into a union (she's based on Mother Jones) and they both want their town to be a place of honesty and justice, not backstabbing and exploitation. They will come up against some powerful forces, but these stubborn, angry women with little to lose, are happy to demonstrate how tough they are despite their long hair and dresses. Especially when it comes to defending their kids.

These women are inspiring and really define the word gumption like no other. In a time when the strength of women was in question it's refreshing to read about women who stood up to the boys' club and men's power plays even when it was life-threatening. and if that's not enough, the mystery about what really happened to Daniel will keep you guessing.

This book is published by Minotaur, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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