Read by Candace Thaxton, Robin Eller, Nancy Wu, Megan Tusing, Jennifer Jill Araya, Angel Pean and Andi Arndt
About The Book
From the internationally bestselling author of The Atomic City Girls, a provocative novel set in eastern Tennessee that “explores the legacies—of passion and violence, music and faith—that haunt one family across the generations” (Jillian Medoff, author of This Could Hurt).
Ten-year-old Grace is in search of a subject for her fifth-grade history project when she learns that her four times-great grandfather once stabbed his lover to death. His grisly act was memorialized in a murder ballad, her aunt tells her, so it must be true. But the lessons of that revelation—to be careful of men and desire—are not just Grace’s to learn. Her family’s tangled past is part of a dark legacy in which the lives of generations of women are affected by the violence immortalized in folksongs like “Knoxville Girl” and “Pretty Polly” reminding them always to know their place—or risk the wages of sin.
Janet Beard’s stirring novel, informed by her love of these haunting ballads, vividly imagines these women, defined by the secrets they keep, the surprises they uncover, and the lurking sense of menace that follows them throughout their lives even as they try to make a safe place in the world for themselves. “This inspired story of Appalachian folklore” (Publishers Weekly) will move and rouse you.
Born and raised in East Tennessee, Janet Beard studied screenwriting at NYU and went on to earn an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She is the bestselling author of The Atomic City Girls and The Ballad of Laurel Springs. She currently lives in Columbus, Ohio.
"Seven narrators perform these tragic love stories, which echo one another through the years. When 10-year-old Grace asks her mother about a “murder ballad” called “Pretty Polly,” she learns it’s about her “three times” great-grandmother, Polly, who died tragically in the 1890s. Each chapter, skillfully narrated by a different narrator, features four elements: a descendant of Polly, a child, a murder ballad, and a death. The narrators craft their performances to embrace the rural Appalachian culture and the women who sing these sad songs. While listeners rarely hear the melodies of these haunting murder ballads, their meanings ring clear, as do the string of tragic love stories, each revolving around a folk song that harkens back to Polly."