Despite the crime, Woods makes Amy so sympathetic, her life so bleak and her options so limited that she becomes a paradigm for the entire valley, robbed of its youth and denied its future. She’s quite a remarkable character ... Amy comes from tough stock, a clan of miners whose faces are bared in the old photos people hang in their homes, black-and-white reminders of 'the unhappy proud, strong like whipped horses.' Woods writes in the same style as those photographs, wrapping beauty in shocking misery.
Amy tells her fraught story in her own first-person voice, while a second story—that of a local police officer—is told in third person. The officer, a monster of a man, becomes involved in Amy’s life in a surprising way. Woods’ accomplished but very dark novel about a town where violence is epidemic is an extended exercise in a kind of nihilism. It is unsettling and invites long thoughts about the world Amy inhabits.
Using stark imagery and evocative prose, Woods paints an unflinching portrait of small-town brutality and despair. Tension climbs as the cops close in, but the deeply unsympathetic cast leaves readers uncertain for whom to root. Fans of Appalachian noir will be well satisfied.