The Heroine: Bethany Wylie, a young girl growing up in sixties-era Indiana. Over her summers spent in West Virginia, Bethany forms a close bond with her cousin Reana Mae, a troubled child running wild amongst the poverty, tangled relationships and old gossip of the Coal River Valley. The story follows Bethany and Reana Mae as they grow from children to women, the course of their lives influenced and changed by the family secrets that are revealed and the ultimate tragedies that steal their innocence forever.
The Highs: There are some stories that stick with you for a long time, and I know that Prayers and Lies is one of those stories. Beautifully written, with a carefully constructed plot and characters that feel so heartbreakingly real, this novel is haunting and addictive. The narrator Bethany's voice is so clear and unique that she seems to take on a life of her own, living and breathing right off the page. I cared for her immediately and couldn't stop reading until I found out what happened to her next and how yet again her life would be twisted around by the unending turns in the plot.
This novel is packed with suspense. The plot jerks the reader in a dozen different directions, all leading up to a climactic ending at the speed of a freight train. The author's writing is also the perfect example of creating a mood and atmosphere: there is a sense of foreboding that hangs over the tale, drawing you into the dark, sick world of Bethany and Reana Mae's childhood until you are completely enraptured. I think writing professors should use Prayers and Lies as an example of perfect writing in every lecture!
The ending does not disappoint in this tale of family drama and lost childhoods. By the time I had turned the last page, my emotions were raw and I felt spent and exhausted. This story touched me deeply, the way any excellent book should, and I will certainly be adding this to my favourites list.
The Lows: Prayers and Lies definitely warrants a "sensitive subject" warning. The story overflows with discomforting topics and I would advise anyone who is sensitive towards child abuse, suicide, rape, violence, sex, swearing and substance abuse to read with caution. This book was very upsetting emotionally and I often had to remind myself that it was fiction for comfort.
Final Thoughts: This book will be on my shelf for a long, long time and I expect it will become dog-eared with love. I'm eagerly looking forward to Sherri Wood Emmons's next project!
Rating: Prayer and Lies earns nine dirty secrets out of ten.
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