Dovey Coe is twelve. She lives in the mountains during the Depression. Oh, and she’s also on trial for murder. The book begins with Dovey’s denial of having killed Parnell, the man who was recently courting her sister Caroline, but who was left alone – in very humiliating circumstances – when Caroline decided to go to teachers’ school. Unfortunately, Dovey isn’t the type to ever sit quietly by, or to hold opinions to herself. Therefore the entire town knows quite well that she hated Parnell and “would sooner shoot him than look at him.” Of course, she hadn’t really meant that, but what’s said is said.
Dovey is a vivacious character, filled with life and personality. Her murder trial is marked just as much by her anger at the lies of a witness as it is by her anxiety that she will be found guilty. She knows she didn’t do it, now she just has to find a way to prove it. Also well done is her relationship with her deaf brother Amos. Even though he’s slightly older, she’s felt that she needs to take care of him and protect him from villagers who don’t understand him. That changes over the course of the story, as she realizes that Amos is more than capable of helping himself.
The language of the book is intended to reflect the speaking patterns of a young girl in the mountains of the 1930’s. As such the grammar is idiosyncratic, and Dovey sometimes uses unique expressions. Some children will enjoy the immersion into another time and place, while others will be annoyed at the “incorrect” language. For those who fall somewhere in between, the rhythm of the language is quickly picked up and becomes simply another part of the character.