These three recently released books are deep in the Hillbilly Highways wheelhouse. Last Girl Gone is set in my home state of North Carolina, a thriller featuring a journalist who returns to the small town she grew up in. David Joy is walking in the mighty footprints left by Ron Rash, and The Line That Held Us is a tale about one deadly accident setting off a cycle of violence set in my old stomping grounds in the NC mountains. Ohio is set in, well, Ohio, but I’m a Midwesterner now, and I can’t resist a book that gets compared favorably to Friday Night Lights.
I’ve been crazy busy, but a busy travel month has finally given me some reading time. I finished Last Girl Gone by J.G. Hetherton and The Line That Held Us by David Joy during my last two trips. I started Ohio by Stephen Markley on my last trip and should finish it on my next one. I’m a little iffy on Ohio right now, but Last Girl Gone and The Line That Held Us are solid 4-star books.
You can expect reviews of all three books over the next month or so. All are out now in one format or another and available at Amazon (click on the cover pics for an affiliate link).
Can’t-Wait Wednesdays is hosted by Wishful Endings.
Last Girl Gone by J.G. Hetherton
Sometimes, the journey home is the most harrowing. And it’s every parent’s worst nightmare.
Investigative journalist Laura Chambers is back in her tiny hometown of Hillsborough, North Carolina, the one place she swore never to return. Fired from the Boston Globe, her career in shambles, she reluctantly takes a job with the local paper. The work is simple, unimportant, and worst of all, boring―at least until a missing girl turns up dead, the body impeccably clean, dressed to be the picture of innocence.
Years earlier, ten-year-old Patty Finch left home and never made it back. But for the people of Hillsborough, Patty was just the beginning. Child after child disappeared, a reign of terror the town desperately wants to forget. Now that terror has returned to seize another girl. And another. And another.
This is the story Laura’s been waiting for―her one last chance to get back onto the front page. She dives deeper into a case that runs colder by the second, only to discover the truth may be far closer to home than she could have ever imagined. Powerful, intricate, and tense, Last Girl Gone will have you looking over your shoulder long after the last page.
The Line That Held Us by David Joy
From critically acclaimed author David Joy comes a remarkable novel about the cover-up of an accidental death, and the dark consequences that reverberate through the lives of four people who will never be the same again.
When Darl Moody went hunting after a monster buck he’s chased for years, he never expected he’d accidentally shoot a man digging ginseng. Worse yet, he’s killed a Brewer, a family notorious for vengeance and violence. With nowhere to turn, Darl calls on the help of the only man he knows will answer, his best friend, Calvin Hooper. But when Dwayne Brewer comes looking for his missing brother and stumbles onto a blood trail leading straight back to Darl and Calvin, a nightmare of revenge rips apart their world. The Line That Held Us is a story of friendship and family, a tale balanced between destruction and redemption, where the only hope is to hold on tight, clenching to those you love. What will you do for the people who mean the most, and what will you grasp to when all that you have is gone? The only certainty in a place so shredded is that no one will get away unscathed.
Ohio by Stephen Markley
The debut of a major talent; a lyrical and emotional novel set in an archetypal small town in northeastern Ohio—a region ravaged by the Great Recession, an opioid crisis, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—depicting one feverish, fateful summer night in 2013 when four former classmates converge on their hometown, each with a mission, all haunted by the ghosts of their shared histories.
Since the turn of the century, a generation has come of age knowing only war, recession, political gridlock, racial hostility, and a simmering fear of environmental calamity. In the country’s forgotten pockets, where industry long ago fled, where foreclosures, Walmarts, and opiates riddle the land, death rates for rural whites have skyrocketed, fueled by suicide, addiction and a rampant sense of marginalization and disillusionment. This is the world the characters in Stephen Markley’s brilliant debut novel, Ohio, inherit. This is New Canaan.
On one fateful summer night in 2013, four former classmates converge on the rust belt town where they grew up, each of them with a mission, all of them haunted by regrets, secrets, lost loves. There’s Bill Ashcraft, an alcoholic, drug-abusing activist, whose fruitless ambitions have taken him from Cambodia to Zuccotti Park to New Orleans, and now back to “The Cane” with a mysterious package strapped to the underside of his truck; Stacey Moore, a doctoral candidate reluctantly confronting the mother of her former lover; Dan Eaton, a shy veteran of three tours in Iraq, home for a dinner date with the high school sweetheart he’s tried to forget; and the beautiful, fragile Tina Ross, whose rendezvous with the captain of the football team triggers the novel’s shocking climax.
At once a murder mystery and a social critique, Ohio ingeniously captures the fractured zeitgeist of a nation through the viewfinder of an embattled Midwestern town and offers a prescient vision for America at the dawn of a turbulent new age.
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