Shadows of Pecan Hollow by Caroline Frost is very highly recommended literary Southern fiction featuring a tough young woman and a grifter in Texas.
In 1970 thirteen-year-old Kit Walker is running away from her latest foster home in an attempt to find an aunt when she meets Manny Romero at a gas station. Manny takes the teen under his tutelage and she becomes his partner-in-crime. Manny and Kit work together in scamming and stealing until they work their way up to armed robbery. They become known as the Texaco Twosome. Manny robbed the gas stations while Kit drove the get away car. When Kit is nineteen, she is pregnant with Manny's child. He wants her to get rid of it, but she suddenly runs away from him (no spoilers).
In 1990 Kit is living in Pecan Hollow with her thirteen-year-old daughter, Charlie. Kit is a tough woman with few social skills, but she works hard and fiercely loves Charlie in her own way. She works for a veterinarian and does her best to get by and provide a home for Charlie despite the fact that she has no clue how to be a family. When Manny is released from prison and turns up in Pecan Hollow, Kit knows nothing good will come from this.
This is an incredible literary debut novel full of wonderful
descriptions and expressive language that depicts the setting and
characters and places them firmly during a place and time. Small town life is portrayed with the personalities and scuffles that naturally are present and can't really be avoided. The novel tells the story in the 1970's until Kit leaves Manny. The
story in the 1990's introduces us to adult Kit and her struggles with
Charlie, as well as her inability to truly get along with other people.
When Manny shows up, readers will know that, although he claims he has
changed, that his appearance means trouble.
The characters are unforgettable although not necessarily likable.
Kit is tough, hard, and closed off from everyone, actions she has
learned through her life experiences. Frost admirably captures Kit's
life experiences and her issues, making her feelings of abandonment and
unworthiness heartbreaking, but understandable. Manny is a narcissistic
con artist who knows how to charm people and get what he wants. Charlie
is a young teen girl and acts like it, attitude and all.
This is a memorable novel that marks Frost as a writer to watch. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.