cover image Worthy's Town

Worthy's Town

Sharon Rolens. Bridge Works Publishing Company, $22.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-882593-35-4

Old Kane, Ill., is ground zero for this folksy, smalltown narrative, a first novel rife with resilient do-gooders, town idiots and villains, sexual initiations, dubious parentage and two possible cases of murder. In 1925, Worthy and Willa Giberson, a farm couple in middle age, rear their grandson Cappy after his single 14-year-old mother, Chastity, dies in childbirth. Evil Drayton Hunt presents himself almost immediately as Cappy's father, vowing to ""claim what's mine."" He's rebuffed by grouchy-but-honorable Worthy and saintly Willa, but over the next several years swoops in periodically to menace Worthy and the town's other denizens as they gather around the stove at Pick's General Store to drink coffee and gossip. Inquisitive and irrepressible Cappy turns a childhood propensity for good-natured lying into a career as a fledgling journalist at the county newspaper. His slow-witted uncle Tick leaves home with the traveling Rev. Art Gimmy and becomes a performing ""healer""Ddeveloping his own, lucrative brand of storytelling. By 1944, when Cappy's boyhood friend Beany Ozbun returns on leave from the army, Old Kane simmers with sinister undercurrents, racing toward tragedy, and Cappy plays amateur sleuth to uncover the biggest story of his life. With the backdrop of the Depression and WWII to provide a sure sense of time and place, the tale overflows with characters exhibiting country-folk quirkiness. Often awkward but humorous and engaging dialogue punctuate this nostalgic story of rural America, in which the complexity of smalltown human relationships brings depth to the murder-mystery plot that ensues. (Oct.) FYI: Worthy's Town was selected by Barnes & Noble for its Discover Great New Writers Program.