Prayers the Devil Answers by Sharyn McCrumb
Rating: Very Good
Description: Sharyn McCrumb, New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Ballad series, examines one of the most famous public executions in US history in her stunning and and powerfully written Depression-era novel. Years later, after the tragedy, someone remembered the Dumb Supper and what had happened there. That was the cause of it, they said, because the ritual wasn't a game after all. It really was magic, but magic has rules, and she broke them. Suddenly thrust into the role of primary caretaker for her family following the tragic death of her husband, Ellie Robbins is appointed to serve out his term as sheriff of their rural Tennessee mountain town. The year is 1936, and her role is largely symbolic, excerpt for the one task that only a sheriff can do: execute a convicted prisoner. Ellie has long proven she can handle herself. But becoming sheriff is altogether different, and the demands of the role are even more challenging when she is forced to combat society's expectations for a woman. Soon enough, dark secrets come to light, and Ellie must grapple with small town superstitions and the tenuous ties she shares with a condemned killer as she carves out a place for herself in an uncertain future. (from Goodreads)
Why I Picked This Book: McCrumb has long been a favorite author but it's been awhile since I've read any of her books. I was excited to get my hands on this one.
My Impression: I remember the first Sharyn McCrumb book I ever read. It was a book called She Walks These Hills and was about a girl named Katie Wyler who had been kidnapped by the Shawnee two hundred years before and now people were seeing her ghost. In all of her Ballad series novels McCrumb starts with a folk tale - true or not - and weaves all these wonderful stories and characters into it and really makes it come alive.
This book isn't from her Ballad series but it has a similar feel. McCrumb takes 3 people - Ellendor Robbins trying to get herself back up on her feet after the death of her husband for the sake of her 2 boys, quiet little Celia with her bad luck at the Dumb Supper, and Lonnie Varden a mediocre artist whose job is to paint a mural on the wall of the local post office - and weaves their stories together. It takes some time to figure out how everything is connected but I wasn't impatient and I enjoyed watching everything unfold.
Of the three characters and stories, Ellendor's was my favorite. She's a quiet reserved woman who isn't good at small talk and can't take charity. Without her husband to handle the social aspect she feels adrift. She's also tough and smart and loves her boys fiercely. The book does seem to primarily on her for which I was glad as I found her story the most interesting.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy the other 2. With Celia in particular I wanted to figure out just what a Dumb Supper was. McCrumb gives a good description so I understood what went on, what it looked like, and what the point was. I also enjoyed Lonnie's POV because of his honesty about his art abilities.
McCrumb's writing never fails. There's a musical quality to it and it feels like listening to the best of storytellers weave a complex and beautiful story. I love seeing the ins and outs of these characters and really getting to know them. If you haven't read Sharyn McCrumb before than this book is a wonderful place to start. If you're familiar with her work you'll love this newest tale of life in the Tennessee mountains.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely! I'd love to reread her books and I'll definitely be looking for the next one.
Would I Recommend this Book?: Absolutely! If you love a good story I think you'll really enjoy this one.