This story is set in 20th-century Verra, a small West Virginia coal mining community tucked across the creek from Whisper Hollow. In this town, the lives of Myrthen, Alta, and Lidia intersect with one another due to painful secrets, secrets they spend their entire lives trying to keep hidden.
When still a child, Myrthen loses her twin sister in an accident that forever haunts her life. As the years pass, she channels her grief into a macabre love for the Catholic Church. Alta wants to marry the handsome new boy in town, but in a twist of fate he becomes married to Myrthen instead. Still young, Lidia’s life is shaped by the drudgery of taking care of her widower father and mentally handicapped brother. A random act of violence shatters the pattern of her existence; finding herself pregnant, she seeks out a boy to marry. Her conceived child becomes connected to both Myrthen and Alta, with unforeseen consequences.
The novel spans a timeframe of 50 years and how each girl’s destiny becomes entwined with the others makes for a forceful plot. Well researched, the mining community jumps to life off the page, as well as the dictates of the Catholic Church that shape the life-altering decisions of all three girls.
I particularly enjoyed the nuances and the descriptive language about the community, although the novel did slow down a bit after its stellar opening. However, it came back to speed and moved along toward a powerful and satisfying conclusion.