H.T. Bedord's Sweet Hollow Women explores the relationships between the women in five generations of one southern family between the years of 1949 and 2015. It also deals with class distinctions and pride. Each chapter title includes the place, person and year it took place; without that, I would have been lost reading this novel. All the characters in each generation made it somewhat confusing until I finally made a list and got them sorted out. It is worth the effort; the characters are well developed and the plot twists keep the reader turning pages.
Carasine Busey is the main protagonist. Her mother, Rhonda, was only sixteen years old when Carasine was born. Rhonda leaves Carasine in her mother, Maggie's care for her early years, then abruptly re-claims her child when she finally marries Carasine's father ten years later; they have several more children in rapid secession. He never wanted Carasine and treated her with the contempt of an unwanted step-child. These three generations exists on and below the poverty line, classic depictions of the working poor with no long-term goals, living from one pay check to the next are spot on.
At age fifteen, Carasine is forced out of her parent's home and moves in with her great grandparents, Louisa and Walt, whom she barely knows. Shortly before this event, she asks Rhonda why she named her Carasine. Rhonda laughs, "I named you Caroline, but the nurses couldn't read my writing. So you were stuck with Carasine!"
The overall sense of hopelessness for the future and the need to settle with unhappy marriages to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables make for an unforgettable novel. As Carasine finally breaks free of the cycle of poverty, I am left with a sense of wonder. Is anything as it really seems?
Holly Tierney-Bedord lives in Madison, Wisconsin. She is the author of several novels and stories including Surviving Valencia, Bellamy's Redemption, and The Miraculous Power of Butter Cookies. For more information visit her website.
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