Child of the Mountains
Growing up poor in 1953 in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia doesn't bother Lydia Hawkins. She treasures her tight-knit family. There's her loving mama, now widowed; her whip-smart younger brother, BJ, who has cystic fibrosis; and wise old Gran. But everything falls apart after Gran and BJ die and mama is jailed unjustly. Suddenly Lydia has lost all those dearest to her.
Moving to a coal camp to live with her uncle William and aunt Ethel Mae only makes Lydia feel more alone. She is ridiculed at her new school for her outgrown homemade clothes and the way she talks, and for what the kids believe her mama did. And to make matters worse, she discovers that her uncle has been keeping a family secret—about her.
If only Lydia, with her resilient spirit and determination, could find a way to clear her mother's name. . . .
From the very first page of Child of the Mountains, I was immediately there with the main character, Lydia. She’s from the mountains and her dialect and English isn’t very good, but I was sucked into her story. I was rooting for her from the first page because she’s so heartbroken and honest and good, I guess, is the word I’m looking for. And my feelings from the first page were just solidified throughout the rest of the book.
And there’s so much sadness and confusion and yet throughout Child of the Mountains, I was so hopeful because I just knew that everything had to turn out alright for Lydia, because she deserved better.
I loved the secondary teachers in Child of the Mountains, especially Lydia’s teacher and her brother BJ. They all had a crucial role to play in Lydia’s coming-of-age, but they still felt just as real as she did.
The present day and backstory in Child of the Mountains was beautifully blended into one flowing story. I loved the way Marilyn Sue Shank dropped hints throughout Child of the Mountains so that we were able to mostly figure out on her own what happened to put her mother and jail, and yet there was still a twist at the end that I never expected.
There were parts of Child of the Mountains that literally felt like it came out of a young girl’s diaries. The stories that were shared about Christmas and various road trips and childhood pranks really resonated with me.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction with a side of heartbreak and hope, and beautiful coming-of-age stories, definitely pick up this fabulous debut by Marilyn Sue Shank. Child of the Mountains is not a book you want to miss.