Shae-Lynn Penrose drives a cab in a town where no one needs a cab—but plenty of people need rides. A former police officer with a closet full of miniskirts, a recklessly sharp tongue, and a tendency to deal with men by either beating them up or taking them to bed, she has spent years carving out a life for herself and her son in Jolly Mount, Pennsylvania, the tiny coal-mining town where she grew up.
Two years ago, five of Shae-Lynn’s miner friends were catapulted to media stardom when they were rescued after surviving four days trapped in a mine. As the men struggle to come to terms with the nightmarish memories of their ordeal, along with the fallout of their short- lived celebrity, Shae-Lynn finds herself facing harsh realities and reliving bad dreams of her own, including her relationship with her brutal father, her conflicted passion for one of the miners, and the hidden identity of the man who fathered her son.
When the younger sister she thought was dead arrives on her doorstep, followed closely by a gun-wielding Russian gangster, a shady New York lawyer, and a desperate Connecticut housewife, Shae-Lynn is forced to grapple with the horrible truth she discovers about the life her sister’s been living, and with one ominous question: Will her return result in a monstrous act of greed or one of sacrifice?
Tawni O’Dell’s trademark blend of black humor, tenderness, and a keen sense of place is evident once again as Shae-Lynn takes on past demons and all-too-present dangers.
O'Dell, whose debut, Back Roads (2000), was an Oprah pick, returns with a terrific third novel set in a Pennsylvania coal country of broken families, altercations and smalltown coping. Policewoman-turned-cabbie Shae-Lynn Penrose, a little over 40 and back in Jolly Mount after a rent-a-cop stint in Washington, D.C., raised son Clay (24 and the town deputy) on her own. For the past 18 years, she has believed that her sister, Shannon, was killed by their abusive father while Shae-Lynn was at college. (Their mother died of complications after giving birth to Shannon; their father was killed much later in a mine explosion.) When a New York lawyer turns up asking for Shannon Penrose, whom he seems to have seen recently, Shae-Lynn is shocked; when Shannon herself suddenly turns up, very pregnant, Shae-Lynn's reaction is primal and tactile. As O'Dell slowly unspools Shannon's very-much-of-her-own-doing predicament, O'Dell demonstrates her mastery of set-piece dialogue, reeling off stingingly acute encounters that are as funny as they can be crushingly sad. Ne'er-do-well Choker Simms (and his two kids, Fanci and Kenny), lawyer Gerald Kozlowski, mine owner Cam Jack, Shae-Lynn's nonboyfriend E.J., Shannon's sort-of-boyfriend Dmitri and others are all wonderfully drawn through Shae-Lynn's keen observations. Family saga O'Dell-style crackles with conflict and a deep understanding of the complications and burdens that follow attachment, sex, love and kinship.
I purchased this book after I read Back Road, thinking it would probably be just as good but I was not that impressed. It was something to read to pass time. I wouldn't recommend purchasing it.