In the midst of a heaven-rattling summer storm a young stranger blows into a small prairie town. On the run after taking her latest boyfriend's truck, with a pocketful of stolen money and a heart full of pain, seventeen-year-old Noreen Stall seems to invite trouble.
And trouble comes soon enough, as Noreen's new mistakes trigger calamities that shake the lives of the residents of Pembina Lake. Acclaimed novelist Martha Brooks has written an unforgettable and award-winning story about a terribly complex heroine and the effects she has on those around her.
Brooks's (Bone Dance) moving novel about a trio of women from three different generations opens like a mystery. After a troubled teen shows up on a rainy night at Lynda's caf in the tiny town of Pembina Lake, the single mother offers her lodging, returning the hospitality that Dolores had once extended to Lynda and her son. Dolores, at age 76, "could search out a lie even when you tried hard not to think it," and slowly draws out 17-year-old Noreen's story: she has had a fight with her live-in boyfriend, stolen his truck and money, and is pregnant. Brooks (Bone Dance) alternates among the three characters' perspectives. Noreen, who "tried to think about herself in the future. But no image would come," lashes out, nearly killing Lynda's dog and starting a fire in Pembina Lake resident Del's cabin, destroying treasured photos of his dead brother. Some of the writing (e.g., the characterization of Lynda's overly precious son, Noreen's journal to Del) comes across as scripted. But Brooks's languorous, poetic style fittingly reflects the overburdened women she portrays and allows space for touching scenes, such as Lynda remembering her own foul-weather flight from an abusive husband or Dolores's apology to Del for not helping him after his brother's death. These details add depth and realism to the characters, and explain why they help prickly Noreen. The conclusion may be choppy, but the novel develops with enough drama to keep readers engrossed. Ages 12-up.