Today, in the category of Books That Surprised Me, allow me to introduce:
Hope in the Holler, by Lisa Lewis Tyre
published in 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books
This book had to sneak up on me in order to capture my fancy. Something about the plot summaries I’d read made me doubt I would get very far with it. Kentucky backwoods folk, a young girl grieving her mom, a spiteful wretch of an aunt…it sounded dreary and perhaps overwrought. I had a niggling concern about negative stereotyping. And I had seen more titles than I cared to about children grieving the loss of a parent.
I picked it up anyway to give it a shot and I am here to tell you — I was pleasantly surprised! I was hooked within the first dozen pages by the plainspoken voice of Wavie.
Wavie Conley is the sixth-grade girl who has just lost the only parent she ever knew, the mama she adored. Plans that had been laid for a new guardian fly out the window before Mama is even laid to rest, and in one head-spinning swoop, Wavie is on her way to Conley Hollow with a contemptible aunt she’s never heard of, sporting leopard print everything and a sugary smile that barely conceals her greedy, cold heart.
A bushel basket of woe awaits Wavie in her new home including extreme poverty and the stripping away of any pretense of care on the part of her long lost family. Yet Wavie is not a kid to succumb to self-pity. Her mama left her a sheet of instructions after all, and number 6 tells her to “Be brave, Wavie B. You got as much right to a good life as anybody, so find it.”
The beauty of the mountains and woods are a source of healing for her, and new friends like scrappy Gilbert, savvy Camille, and several adults in this Appalachian community, provide the warmth and support she needs to not only endure the dreadful place she’s landed, but to investigate an astonishing secret she learns.
Despite the tragic and bleak circumstances of Wavie’s life, this book is generally a story of hope, fortitude, friendship, and possibilities. There’s a rich humanity here, suffering, yet striving to rise above their painful lot of mire and misery. Devotion, goodness, and the promise of new beginnings, are the overcomers. It’s ending is perhaps a little rosy, but it’s plausible for all that, and a good serving of poetic justice and happy endings is something we could all use, am I right?
Just look at the sunshine of that cover image and you’ll be on the right track for the overall direction this book takes. It’s a great read for ages 9 and up.