Monday, October 16, 2006

Candles Burning and The Virgin of Small Plains

I read two growing-up-in-a-dysfunctional family books this past summer and as the leaves are falling, am finally getting around to writing about them. The first was the suspense, The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard. Imagine a small town in the middle of nothing Kansas where a gruesome body is found by the younger son of the sheriff while out in a blizzard. No one “knows” who she is but of course certain people know. Mitch Newquist, son of the town judge, witnesses the destruction of the frozen body by the doctor and the sheriff putting him in a very precarious situation, one calling for him to leave town and his favorite girl Abby (the aforementioned doctor’s daughter) immediately. Mitch’s sudden departure and the discovery of the dead girl leave’s all in the tiny town to wonder, especially Mitch’s closest friends, Abby and Ray. Much time passes and the prodigal son returns only his return creates all the dust to be stirred and the true past uncovered. Coming from the perspective of living in a big town all my life, life in a small town seems a bit alien to me. The family dynamics and how the families dealt with each other seem so dependent on social status and while the children of the three families are from almost equal footing, there is definite undercurrents of major power struggles. Also, there is a bit of the gothic strange happenings towards the end which seemed a bit contrived but all in all, the plot definitely held my attention.
The second book was a paranormal Southern gothic experience… Candles Burning by Tabitha King and Michael McDowell. Calley Dakin’s comes from an extreme split in the old social status divide. Her mother comes from a prominent wealthy established Alabama family and she never lets anyone forget it. Calley’s father has more humble beginnings and had to scrape and work his way up the automobile industry until he finally made his wealth only to be cut short by his gruesome murder. Calley and her mother end up in Pensacola Beach where Calley explores her second sight and she does all she can to find out who killed her father all those years ago. Now I assumed it was going to be a horror since I saw Tabitha King... wrong. It was more like a becoming of age type novel of Calley’s childhood experiences and her encounters with paranormal happenings. Side note: Tabitha King completed an unfinished manuscript Michael McDowell left after his death in 1999. I hadn’t heard of this author (famous for his gothic horrors) but he has worked on some very noticeable scripts such as Thinner, Beetlejuice and Nightmare Before Christmas. Tabitha gives an interview about completing the manuscript on her website

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