Monday, May 28, 2018

The Book of Polly - Kathy Hepinstall

Summary:  Willow Havens is ten years old and obsessed with the fear that her mother will die.  Her mother, Polly is a cantankerous, take-no-prisoners Southern woman who lives to chase varmints, drink margaritas, and antagonize the neighbors -- and she sticks out like a sore thumb among the young modern mothers of their small conventional Texas town.  She was in her late fifties when Willow was born, so Willow knows she's here by accident, a late-in-life afterthought.  Willow's father died young, and her much older brother and sister are long grown and gone and failing elsewhere.  It's just her and bigger-than-life Polly.

Willow is desperately hungry for clues to the family life that preceded her, and especially Polly's life, pre-Willow.  Why did she leave her hometown of Bethel, Louisiana, fifty years ago and vow never to return?  Who is Garland Jones, her long-ago suitor who possibly killed a man?  And will Polly be able to outrun the Bear, the illness that finally puts her on a collision course with her past?

The Book of Polly has a kick like the best hot sauce, and a great blend of  humor and sadness, pathos and hilarity.  This is a bittersweet novel about the grip of love in a truly quirky family, and you'll come to know one of the most unforgettable mother-daughter duos you've ever met.  (Summary from book - Image from

My Review:  For those of you who might have been waiting for this review, I'm sorry that it took me so long to get it down on proverbial paper. Sometimes life gets in the way of reading, and it took me nearly three weeks to get through the first half of The Book of Polly.  It's not that I didn't want to read it.  I did.  After all, Kathy Hepinstall is one of my favorite authors. But *sigh* life. So, I read when I could, venturing sporadically into the world of a first precocious, then fiery, young Willow, her equally ornery mother, Polly, and a stunningly odd cast of characters.  Each visit brought unexpected adventures.

Polly is a delightfully sassy southern mama, willing to be all and beat all for her headstrong daughter, though unwilling to relinquish even a small morsel of information about her past.  Her reticence only encourages her daughter, Willow, to become increasingly creative and sneaky in her search for information.  Polly wages war on the weeds, the varmints attempting to raid her garden, the devious neighbor children who sneak in to pee on her plants, and buries her secrets even deeper.  Willow is increasingly worried about her aging mother's health and with good reason.  The Bear is back, an creeping stealthily into her mother's bones.

And now we come to today, as I sat down with nearly half the book left and read it a under two hours.  While this book can be read and enjoyed in fits and bursts, I definitely recommend it as captivating binge-read, if your schedule at all permits.  I won't go into too much that happens in the latter half of the book except to say that journeys are taken, secrets revealed, punches thrown, and twists abound, all delivered with the bittersweet, southern flair that Hepinstall manages to nail. every. time.  While I can't recommend this book to every reader (see sensitive reader), I did enjoy it myself and desperately wish I had a Polly (and Willow and Rhea and Dalton and Garland) of my own.

My Rating: 3.75 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is a fair amount of swearing in this book that make it impossible for me to recommend to my sensitive reader friends.  There is a briefly mentioned, non-descript sexual assault of a young girl and an non-descript attempted kidnapping of an older girl.

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