In Depression-era Appalachia, a desperate sheriff’s widow takes on her late husband’s job and discovers that a prayer the devil answers comes at a terrible price.
The year is 1936 and society provides no safety net for newly widowed Ellie Robbins, a woman in a small mountain town who suddenly has to support her family on her own. She’s not trained to be a teacher or a nurse, the only respectable careers for a woman. So in order to care for her children, Ellie takes the only job available: that of her late husband, the sheriff.
Ellie has long proven that she can handle herself, and her role as sheriff is largely symbolic. Yet the wariness of her male subordinates and the townspeople is palpable. Soon, as dark secrets come to light, Ellie is forced to grapple with the tenuous ties she shares with a convicted killer and the small-town superstitions that have plagued her for years.
When a condemned killer is sentenced to death for his crime, her opportunity to do so presents itself in a way she never expected. There’s one task that only a sheriff can carry out: the execution of a convicted prisoner.
Atmospheric and suspenseful, Prayers the Devil Answers is rich with the same masterful attention to historical detail and captivating folklore that you cherished in McCrumb’s renowned Ballad novels. Her luscious writing brings her unforgettable characters to life with the “pure poetry” (The New York Times Book Review) that defines her astounding novels. Prayers the Devil Answers is a mesmerizing depiction of one woman’s tenacity and strength in even the most harrowing of circumstances.
A prophetic mountain game rooted in age-old superstitions about how to find a husband sets the stage for McCrumb's (The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter) ponderous morality tale, the latest in the Ballad series. Ellie and Albert are unassuming mountain folk trying to survive in a sleepy Tennessee town after the end of the first World War. After coming down from the mountain settlement, away from their families, at the promise of steady work, Albert quickly finds himself elected sheriff of their small hamlet a position of respect and a path to acceptance. Ellie is proud of him, but she's not used to the town folk and maintains her mountain ways. Unfortunately, she has to make do and get used to town quickly after Albert dies of pneumonia and she is appointed to finish his term as sheriff. Though captivating in its scope and detail, a distinct wordiness and repetition may pull readers out of McCrumb's richly textured world. An abundance of background material burdens what is an otherwise excellent exploration of one woman's journey to save her family and find herself.