NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE
Funny and heartbreaking, this New York Times bestselling debut perfectly captures the maddening confusion of adolescence and the prickly nature of family with irony and unerring honesty.
Harley Altmyer should be in college having the time of his life. He should be free from the backwards Pennsylvania coal town he calls home, with its lack of jobs and no sense of humor. Instead, he’s constantly reminded of just how messed up everything is...
Harley’s mother is in prison for killing his father, so he’s in charge of bringing up his younger sisters and working two jobs to pay the bills—and that doesn’t leave a lot of time for distractions. But lately, he’s getting more and more sidetracked by lusting after Callie Mercer, his middle-aged neighbor. As he struggles to keep it together, things begin to spin out of control. Soon Harley finds that as shattered as his family is, there are still more crushing surprises in store.
“In Harley, O’Dell has created a hero who’s heartbreakingly believable; like Holden Caulfield, he uses caustic humor to hide his pain. Readers will care very much about him and his future, if indeed he has one.”—St. Petersburg Times
Nineteen-year-old Harley is left to rear his three younger sisters after their mother is imprisoned for murdering their abusive father in this searing, hardscrabble Party of Five set in Pennsylvania mining country. Doubly resentful because his best friend is off at college, Harley spends his days slogging as a Shop Rite bagger and appliance-shop delivery person, coming home to cold cereal dinners prepared by six-year-old Jody. Harley is bitter about having to take over for his mother--"she still had us kids but we didn't have her"--and he can't shake the feeling that she prefers prison to their home life; a mystery lingers around his father's death. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Amber is sleeping her way through the town's teenage boys and flaunting her body in front of Harley; middle sister Misty, once her father's favorite and his hunting companion, practices shooting. Desperate for relief, Harley finds solace in rough but exhilarating encounters with married Callie Mercer, little Jody's best friend's mother, losing his virginity to her on a muddy creek bank and reveling in her sophisticated, sensitive words. But memories are stirring in his subconscious, and erotic dreams of the Virgin Mary metamorphose into nightmarish sexual visions. In his sessions with a court-appointed therapist, Harley edges closer to understanding his family's twisted dynamic, but it is only when the horrors of the present begin to catch up with those of the past that a series of shattering truths are revealed. By then it is too late for Harley to save everyone he loves, but in sacrificing himself, however hopelessly, he introduces a note of grace. O'Dell's scorching tale touches on all the tropes of dysfunctional families, but her characters fight free of stereotypes, taking on an angry, authentic glow.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Loved it. Great writing.
What a read!!!!
Crushingly beautifully written. The characters were developed to a heartbreaking point. I could not put this book down. The description of lives caught in a web also held the reader.
Kept me Guessing
This book kept me on the edge of my seat, every page had me hooked, as you dive deeper into the mystery of this story the harder it becomes to put the book down!