cover image Whisper Hollow

Whisper Hollow

Chris Cander. Other Press, $17.95 ISBN 978-1-59051-711-6

Cander’s follow-up to 2013’s 11 Stories is inextricably rooted in West Virginia coal country—the rough locale that determines and intertwines her characters’ fates. The obligation-vs.-love plot is divided into two parts: the first half introduces two women, Myrthen, a beauty with an unsettling dark streak who devotes herself to God after her twin sister’s death, and Alta, a housewife with an artist’s soul. Cander closely tracks how Myrthen’s and Alta’s romantic decisions unknowingly complicate each other’s lives in the lead-up to a tragic incident that bisects the novel. Picking up their story 17 years later, Cander then homes in on Lidia, a young mother who meets good-witch Alta and bad-witch Myrthen. It reads like standard smalltown dramatic fare—that is, until a paranormal twist: Lidia’s son develops uncanny foresight. Cander’s exploration of these promising interpersonal dynamics is encumbered by cliché, inconsistencies of structure and character, and an awkwardly rigid chronological frame, but she admirably captures the lack of choice that men and women have in rural West Virginia. “It’s called a ‘mine’ for a reason,” one character states. “’Cause everybody’s working to support their own. I’ll be working to support mine.” (Mar.)