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August 14, 2020

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Icon book review: The Hollows

Journey back to 1926 Ohio, Bronwyn County, and solve a questionable death

Review by Robert McCool
Journey back to 1926 Ohio, Bronwyn County, and solve a questionable death.

Ah, summer. The visceral sun, the weight of humidity. Why not cozy up and chill out in 1926 in the rural Bronwyn County and the Appalachian time of coal country?

In her second book based  in this location, Jess Montgomery(The Widows) blesses us with a gem of a story in “The Hollows” (Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-1-250-18454-2).

The novel is carried by the alternating narrative of two women, and best friends, Sheriff Lily Ross and Hildy Cooper, as they strive to discover the truth concerning an old woman's death at the hands of a train, and likely someone pushing her into the path of the nighttime locomotive.

The action occurs in the small time politics and mores of the early 20th century, where Lily inherited the role of Sheriff from her dead husband, and a campaigns to remain the local law  in a Victorian society that actually tells you whom you may or may not love.

Women are supposed to stay at home and provide for their family's needs. She is more interested in solving a potential murder, putting her at odds with women who act righteous but hide a secret Woman's Ku-Klux-Klan organization.

As it turns out the elderly woman is a cousin to Hildy Cooper, and had escaped the Hollows Asylum in Athens County and walked all night bare-footed to the tunnel where she meets her death. But at whose hands? And why?

The novel moves at the pace of a 1926 autumn day, but easily keeps one's interest as the guessing goes on in the small town of Kinship and the surrounding rural countryside. It reads smooth as homemade jam, sticking with you even after the book is finished.

Both Lily and Hildy are women with their own minds and struggles, but both are worth cheering on as they work out their differences with society amidst a small, strong support group of like minded women who act like an extended family to them.

In keeping with our modern times the topic of Abolitionism runs throughout the plot, making this historical novel relevant to some of today's troubles.

This brilliant novel makes me want to read Jess Montgomery's first book, “The Widows” that is also about Lily and Hildy's relationship in difficult times, and looking forward to her next novel set in backwoods Bronwyn County.

I recommend this novel for an enjoyable read and to slow down under the long summer afternoons.

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