Crooked Hallelujah

Kelli Jo Ford. Grove, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8021-4912-1
In Plimpton Prize–winner Ford’s gritty, elegant debut novel in stories, a young Cherokee woman tries to break a generational cycle of broken families while finding strength in an enduring bond with her mother. Ford opens with “Book of the Generations,” about Lula, whose husband abandoned her and her child, Justine. Justine, 15, rebels against her mother’s conservative Christianity by sneaking out one night to meet a boy. After Justine is raped by the boy, she becomes pregnant with Reney. Justine’s love for her daughter is all-encompassing (“I think it makes Mom proud to say I am—and always have been—perfect,” Reney later reflects) while Reney grows into a life that feels far from perfect. In “Hybrid Vigor,” she ends up working in a Dairy Queen in Bonita, Tex.; grieving several miscarriages; and in a dead-end marriage. When her physically abusive, unemployed husband leaves her pet mule to die, Reney takes it as the last straw. Later, Ford gives Reney opportunities to pursue a healthy relationship, an education, and a stronger understanding of the legacy of her family and heritage. Ford’s storytelling is urgent, her characters achingly human and complex, and her language glittering and rugged. This is a stunner. (July)
Reviewed on : 03/23/2020
Release date: 06/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
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