cover image Dovey Coe

Dovey Coe

Frances O'Roark Dowell. Atheneum Books, $16.99 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-689-83174-4

This novel set in the 1920s uses lyrical first-person narrative to convey the fierce pride and family loyalty of a plucky mountain girl. Twelve-year-old Dovey Coe is determined to ""lay the record straight"" about the death of her sister's suitor, the wealthy Parnell Caraway, whom the townsfolk believe Dovey murdered. After declaring her innocence, Dovey describes the chain of events leading up to the tragedy. In doing so, she offers a vivid and amusingly one-sided portrait of each character involved in the drama: rich, snobbish Parnell, who courts Caroline, Dovey's flirtatious, strong-willed sister; and Dovey's austere parents, who resolutely stand by their younger daughter when the whole town turns against her. Most touching of all is Dovey's relationship with Amos, her deaf brother, who ""some folks [think is] stupid... though it was a far sight from the truth."" The first two-thirds of the story (tracing the ill-fated romance between Parnell and Caroline) unfolds with the leisurely pace of a carefree summer's day, but some readers may find the end of the book, recounting Dovey's courtroom experience with an inexperienced defense lawyer, too rushed. Despite the book's pat resolution, first-time novelist Dowell succeeds in capturing the essence of a young and unforgettable independent thinker, who uses honesty and common sense as her weapons against injustice. This is an author well worth watching. Ages 8-12. (May)