Sherry Parnell: 10/29/19
eBook review copy; 270 pages
Let the Willows Weep by Sherry Parnell is a very highly recommended, beautifully written, heartbreaking novel written in the tradition of rural Southern fiction.
"Sometimes life is just like paper wings. Fragile, easily torn apart, and often there are too many pieces to pick up."
Birddog Harlin lives in the rural South by a small town with her parents and two brothers. Her father makes a hardscrabble existence by working in a coal mine while her mother is ever full of disappointment and bitterness over their poverty. Denny, her older brother is her idol and protector. Caul, the brother closest to her in age, is her tormentor. She is her verbally abusive mother's greatest disappointment. But Birddog (a nickname given to her by Denny) is her daddy's girl, and her father loves and cherishes her. After her father dies in a cave-in, the dysfunctional family spirals into self-destruction.
The opening chapter and the concluding chapter are set in the future, through the eyes of Birddog's daughter. After the opening where the mother is harsh to her daughter, then we jump back in time to Birddog's childhood, and her mother treating her even worse. Truly, children learn to parent from their parents, good or bad. This is Birddog's story. Although a time period is not mentioned, I found it relatively easy to place it during a basic time in history based on the story. (There were many period clues, for example segregated housing, the brothers leaving school to work, girls wore dresses all the time, etc..)
Let the Willows Weep is an excellent novel. Parnell's writing is simple gorgeous, descriptive, poetic, and sublime. Even while describing difficult, hurtful, abusive situations, the sentences are perfectly crafted and the reflections are unflinchingly told. Birddog is a memorable, very well-developed character. This novel is through her point-of-view, and her self-examination about her mother and her resulting attitude. Additionally, Let the Willows Weep is an emotional novel and I teared up, or cried during scenes throughout the novel. Yes, it explores the line between destruction and redemption, but the journey covers a myriad of emotions that exist between those two points.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Sherry Parnell.