Engel masterfully creates a milieu in which women struggle against all odds to provide the best lives possible for their daughters. Tension arises as Eve, heeding advice from her former boyfriend, an abusive meth dealer, is faced with a dreadful choice in a stunning conclusion.
... uncompromising and absorbingly written ... 12-year-olds Junie and Izzie are murdered, and Engel does right by them, not using their tragedy as mere plot point to hook readers but genuinely letting us feel the rubbed-raw grief of Junie’s mother, Eve Taggert, and showing how it turns swiftly into action ... Not just a fine thriller but a fine character study, plumbing family and particularly mother-daughter relationships and showing Eve, her mother, and Izzie’s mother, too, as women unbendable as oak.
... harrowing ... Without sacrificing any of the narrative’s ferocious urgency, Engel gradually discloses a few of Eve’s own guilty secrets—on the way to some gut-wrenching final revelations. This rural noir stakes Engel’s claim to that dystopian terrain somewhere between Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects and Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone.
A bleak drama of rural America that offers grim lessons but minimal hope ... An unforeshadowed revelation about Zach halfway through adds nothing to the suspense—instead, we are brought up short, wondering how a first-person narrator like Eve, blunt, plainspoken, and obsessed with the truth, could conceal this glaring fact from herself for half the book. In fact, her unerring instincts will lead to a completely unexpected conclusion. These pages are replete with lessons about the choices women have in such environments—that is to say, none, except to toughen up or give up ... Readers craving some nod at redemption may have to be satisfied with rough justice.