When Ollieâ€™s daddy, the Reverend Everlasting Love, pulls their travel trailer into Binder to lead a three-day revival, Ollie knows that this town will be like all the others they visitâ€” it is exactly the kind of nothing Ollie has come to expect.
From the first page of this book, I really felt like I was in Binder, Arkansas. “Fields of soft green barley laid themselves out across the earth in perfect rows–as if God had reached down and combed them just so.” Hilmo’s descriptive language is beautiful and helps the reader picture the scene. Although Binder is not a town that takes too kindly to visitors. They are not all friendly, especially the shopkeeper Mrs. Carter, who did everything she could to make them feel unwelcome in town. “Folks ’round here don’t take kindly to strangers with too many questions.”
Ollie meets Jimmy Koppel, a boy who could really use some love, and some help. His mother is in jail for murdering his no good father. Jimmy insists that his mother is innocent, and Ollie believes him. Still, even if she can convince her daddy to stay in town, how can two kids free a grown woman who has signed a confession? Ollieâ€™s longing for a friend and her daddyâ€™s penchant for searching out lost souls prove to be a formidable force in this tiny town where everyone seems bent on judging and jailing without a trial.
This story is a wonderful page turner. While I really wanted to find out what was going to happen, I was pulled in even more by the characters. There’s the preacher, who was pretty much destined to go into the ministry with the name of Everlasting Love. And his lovely and caring wife Susannah, who somehow manages to support and assist her husband in his calling, even though it means constantly traveling and living on the road, without the wonderful “modern” conveniences of 1957 available to the townsfolk. In fact, when the family visits a new friend in town, the five year old sister exclaims, “She’s got a flusher! And honest-to-goodness flusher!”
The five sisters have a wonderful sisterly relationship. Thirteen year old Ollie and her twelve year old sister Martha seemed to have an especially hard time getting along with each other. Just like my own three daughters do. But even among the bickering, these sisters try to take care of each other, and to help others as well.
Without giving away too much of the story, I have to say that Mrs. Mahoney was my favorite character. She becomes like a grandmother to the girls, one who is willing to share her life and her home with strangers she has just met. I would love to be more like Mrs. Mahoney in my own life.
Written for the middle grade audience, this story is sweet and simple, yet beautifully written. The imagery and language style are well crafted and wonderful. It’s easy enough for a young person to understand, but interesting and compelling enough for adults to find it a wonderful book, too. Not an easy thing to do, especially on a debut novel. In a time when so many books geared for young people are all about the fantastic, the violent, or the vampires, this book is like a breath of fresh air. It’s a well written and charming story that is clean and unoffensive. I could recommend it to both my daughters and my mother.
I received an advanced copy of this book for review. Look for this book available for purchase September 27.