cover image Sweet Creek Holler

Sweet Creek Holler

Ruth White. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (215pp) ISBN 978-0-374-37360-3

Like Jenny Davis's Goodbye and Keep Cold , this story begins in Appalachia with the sudden, violent death of the father in a family. Ginny is only six when her father is murdered, but even she is aware that her daddy's death has changed everything for them. They can't live in the coal camp anymore and can't use coupons to buy things from the company store. Instead, they move to a shack in Sweet Creek Holler, where all the people are outwardly friendly. In the six-year span of the book, Ginny learns that wickedness can flourish behind welcome smiles; one woman, with her cruel gossip, can alter the lives of those around herwith tragic consequences. White weaves incidents of childish imaginings with those of local legend, evoking the place with both broad strokes and subtle details. Despite the darker aspects of the book, there is an underlying current of hope, which the author (to her credit) does not reveal in a bang-up happy ending, but in the dignity and grace of her characters. Ages 10-up. (August)