cover image With a Hammer for My Heart

With a Hammer for My Heart

George Ella Lyon, DK Publishing. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $21.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2460-0

Lawanda Ingles, the appealing 15-year-old heroine of this resonant debut novel, dreams of being the first person in her family to attend college. Ignoring the scarcity of money in Cardin, Ky., she sets out to sell magazines door to door. At the end of the first day she makes her way up the hill to the home of Amos Garland, a recluse who has lived in two abandoned school buses since his traumatic service in WWII 30 years ago sent him home a guilt-wracked alcoholic. Lawanda enters into an unusual friendship with the crusty old man. But when some punks steal Garland's notebook, which contains thoughts about Lawanda that some townspeople interpret as veiled allusions to an improper relationship, Garland is jailed. Lawanda fights for her friend's freedom, enlisting the help of her grandmother Mamaw, an intuitive healer who was excommunicated from her church for claiming she had a vision in which she saw God as a woman. Lawanda also reaches out to Nancy Catherine, Garland's psychically scarred adult daughter who hasn't seen her father since childhood and remembers him only as an abusive alcoholic. Lyon's rich tale of healing, redemption and social responsibility is told from multiple first-person viewpoints, and although the characters' voices often sound alike, their different viewpoints are distinctive. (Oct.)