Having read a number of David Baldacci's books, most of which are well written, engrossing thrillers, this one is quite different. It is not a thriller but, rather, a beautifully written, human drama, most of which takes place in the mountains of Virginia. In this unabridged, audio book edition, the richness of the drama and the beauty of the writing is brought to life by the wonderful narration of Norma Lana, who manages to convey the down home sense of feeling that is palpable in the book.
This is a coming of age story. It is the story of the Cardinal family, as seen through the young eyes of twelve year old Louisa Mae Cardinal, known as Lou, a precocious twelve year old, whose father is a highly acclaimed writer of note with great literary distinction but little commercial success. She lives with her beloved father, her mother, and her younger brother, Oz, in New York City. The year is 1940. The family is on the brink of moving to California, when tragedy strikes, and the lives of Lou, Oz, and their mother are forever changed.
Lou, Oz, and their now catatonic mother go to live with their paternal great-grandmother, Louisa, for whom Lou is named. This no nonsense, strong willed, loving matriarch lives high up in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia, where Lou's father grew up, and that is where Lou and Oz will now grow up. They are strangers in a strange land, big city children now living on a farm without electricity, running water, or central heat. It is there that Lou comes of age and, together with her brother, Oz, has many new experiences. They are experiences that provide rights of passage and life lessons in friendship, loyalty, loss, and redemption. She gets a large dose of the good, the bad, and the ugly in life.
While there, big business threatens their way of life and pits the townsfolk against each other in a struggle for survival. It is a struggle that sees Louisa take a stance that will, ultimately, be the death of her, leaving the children to cope with their mother, who is physically sound, but locked in her own mind since the tragedy that changed their lives forever. The interests of big business and those of the Cardinal family clash in a Virginia courtroom in a riveting drama that is not easily forgotten. With the help of a family friend, a humble and kindly, country lawyer, things are, eventually, put to rights.
This well written book has richly drawn characters and a sensitive and descriptive narrative that transports the reader to another time and place. It is so evocative of the hardscrabble, mountain existence, so as to make the readers feel as if they, themselves, were experiencing it. It is a sentimental journey that is calculated to tug at one's heartstrings. It is a journey, however, well worth taking. With this book, the author has set himself apart from the pack and proclaimed himself a true literary talent.