cover image The Coffin Quilt: The Feud Between the Hatfields and the McCoys

The Coffin Quilt: The Feud Between the Hatfields and the McCoys

Ann Rinaldi. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-15-202015-6

Fanny McCoy, the protagonist and narrator of Rinaldi's (A Break with Charity; An Acquaintance with Darkness) tautly plotted historical novel about the infamous feuding families effectively portrays the clans' divided loyalties and cycle of violence. This colorful novel, an addition to the Great Episodes series, begins in 1889, when Fanny is 16, at a hanging, and flashes back to 1880 to describe the evolution of the quarrel Fanny claims would never have started ""if not for my sister Roseanna. And I can say this, because I loved her best of all."" Roseanna McCoy, ""so purty that just being next to her is better than a piece of rock candy,"" ran off with Johnse Hatfield and ignited the tinder box of residual hatred still smoldering from ""The War Amongst Us"" (the Civil War). As Roseanna stitches the title quilt, she morbidly records the interwoven fates of the two families, and Fanny, watching her, gradually realizes that her sister courted destruction and ""dragged so many of us with her."" Through homespun language, folk remedies, superstition and a vivid picture of a vengeful religion (e.g., Mama McCoy constantly shifts the pebbles of those in her prayers between the saved and damned piles), Rinaldi skillfully paints the code of honor of Kentucky and West Virginia mountain families. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)