Plot or Premise
I loved Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series, and since I’m a bit of a “completist”, once I like an author’s books, I try to read everything by them. Although it was made into a movie, the book has been long out of print. Which made no real sense…how could a book written by an author as prolific and popular as Sue Grafton, and that was made into a movie, not be available ANYWHERE? Now that I’ve read it, I can see why. Like Keziah Dane, one of her earlier books, the characters are dirt poor backwoods families. Isolated from town, this story takes place entirely on the properties between two neighbouring families. If you have ever heard of the old Hatfields and McCoys feud of two warring families, fighting for reasons they no longer remember, you have the Lolly Madonna War.
What I Liked
The book picks up mid-war with the latest skirmish. The one family, the Gutshalls, has let slip to the other family that there is a girl coming to their house, a girl named Lolly-Madonna who will be a potential mate for one of the sons. Except it is entirely fictitious. Until the second family, the Feathers, sees a girl hiking along the road and decides it must be Lolly-Madonna and therefore kidnap her to get back at the Gutshalls, depriving them of their prize. The girl protests, but to no avail. The war escalates with incursions on each other’s territory, shots fired, stills overturned, pigs slaughtered. And a budding romance with the girl.
What I Didn’t Like
The story is incredibly depressing from start to finish. With a giant plot-hole right in the middle…three of the kids are still friendly and talk occasionally, pretending to fight when they need to but not doing any real harm to each other. And when the Feathers tell their Gutshall friend that they have Lolly-Madonna, he doesn’t say, “But we made it up”. It would have ended the story. Instead, he decides to say nothing, tell his parents, and they get it in their head to say nothing but maybe they should rescue her. Just as an excuse to keep the feud going…if one does something, even in retaliation, the other has to respond. And the ending is beyond depressing, not to mention you don’t really “see” the ending, you just turn the page and find out how it all ended.
The Bottom Line (★★★☆☆)
There’s a reason this is out of print.