Friday, December 16, 2016

Snakes & Stones by Lisa Fowler, 2016

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Twelve-year-old Chestnut Hill’s daddy stole her and the triplets away from their mama. At least, that’s how Chestnut remembers it.

It’s 1921, and after nearly two years on the road with his traveling elixir show, Daddy’s still making no move to go back to Kentucky and buy Mama that house. So Chestnut is forced to come up with her own plan to get home. At night, when Daddy and the triplets are in bed, she draws up flyers with the name of the next town they’ll be traveling to. Before they leave each town and hoping her mama will see them, she nails up the flyers, leaving Mama an easy trail straight to her children.

When that doesn’t work, Chestnut is forced to try something bigger. But when her newest plan lands Daddy in jail and Mama has to come to the rescue, Chestnut discovers that things are not always as they seem. Written with a wonderful mountain hillbilly voice, Snakes and Stones has a mystery at its heart and lovable, strong, and complicated characters.

(240 pages)

My life has been so crazy lately between applying to college, doing my regular schoolwork, and traveling to visit colleges (and then making up for those trips by working even harder to catch up in school). I'm so busy lately that I literally had to schedule time for blogging into my to-do list! This is the first time in a long time that I've actually had to force myself to make time for reading, and it's not really so great.

Anyway, I'm happy to report that I really enjoyed reading Snakes & Stones. Quirky Southern-flavored novels don't always work for me, but this one did for the most part. If I were a little less tired right now I might take issue with how naiive Chestnut is about the truth that's so clearly right in front of her. I might also express concern about the fact that the one African-American character (who grew up in the exact same town as Chestnut's father) has a dreadfully stereotypical "impoverished black person" accent. I might also complain a little bit about the lack of communication going on between Chestnut and her father, and about the fact that her father feels more like a theoretical character than an actual person.

The truth, though, is that I can look past those things and enjoy this debut novel for the interesting and heart-tugging story that lies at its core. Chestnut's struggle to understand her past, her urgent need to lay the blame for the fracture of her family at her father's feet, feels real to me. In fact, Chestnut feels very real: she's flawed and quirky enough to be a real human being, but not so out-of-this-world quirky that she has to have been made up. In fact, I think this is one of the few books which give me the feeling that I could legitimately meet the protagonist walking down the street.

I have to say, though, that my favorite parts of the book were definitely the ones with her three younger siblings. The triplets were so cute, very full of personality and heart! They all three reminded me of my own younger siblings at some point or another. I know from experience how hard it can be to care for small children, even if they are your own flesh and blood, so I admired Chestnut for taking such good care of them throughout the book.

I don't think this is the best book of this type that I've read, but if you're out of other books to read in the quirky-and-meaningful genre or you're aching for some good father-daughter relationship struggles, then this is the book for you. If you do read it, et me know what you think in the comments section down below!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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