A riveting new novel about an indomitable young woman in Virginia during Prohibition.
Most folk thought Sallie Kincaid was a nobody who’d amount to nothing. Sallie had other plans.
Sallie Kincaid is the daughter of the biggest man in a small town, the charismatic Duke Kincaid. Born at the turn of the 20th century into a life of comfort and privilege, Sallie remembers little about her mother who died in a violent argument with the Duke. By the time she is just eight years old, the Duke has remarried and had a son, Eddie. While Sallie is her father’s daughter, sharp-witted and resourceful, Eddie is his mother’s son, timid and cerebral. When Sallie tries to teach young Eddie to be more like their father, her daredevil coaching leads to an accident, and Sallie is cast out.
Nine years later, she returns, determined to reclaim her place in the family. That’s a lot more complicated than Sallie expected, and she enters a world of conflict and lawlessness. Sallie confronts the secrets and scandals that hide in the shadows of the Big House, navigates the factions in the family and town, and finally comes into her own as a bold, sometimes reckless bootlegger.
You will fall in love with Sallie Kincaid, a feisty and fearless, terrified and damaged young woman who refuses to be corralled.
Welcome to 1920ies Virgina were State laws were of low import and what was followed were the local laws passed by men like Duke Kincaid.
People are poor and survive paying their rent in “whisky” or rather, moonshine to wealthy Duke Kincaid.
Prohibition you said? Oh well, that law was voted by greedy politicians, far away from the small people. The sheriff is Duke’s brother in law so if the Duke is getting paid in moonshine, no one will make a fuss.
Enters Sallie Kincaid, the Duke’s second daughter from a second marriage.
She was a little girl when she was cast out, sent to live in a poor house with her aunt Faye because of an honest mistake that nearly cost her baby half-brother’s life. It was just the occasion for her mother in law to get rid of that rambunctious daughter who reminded her of the previous Missis Kincaid.
Sallie will grow up being a strongheaded girl, with a big heart and a spine of steel.
Once her mother in law died, Sallie has been called back to the big house to help raise her brother. But reclaiming her place is not easy as many hope to get some crumbs of power wielded by the Duke. And soon, he’ll come back with yet another bride, threatening Sallie’s place and use.
That book read like a family saga, full of secrets and hidden children, cast out women once they have no longer any use to powerful men. Jannette Walls sure knows how to write complicated grey characters and familial dysfunction!
The social injustice is also very present in that story, be it that of the persecution of people of color or the vulnerability of women in society. They were at the mercy of their father and then, their husband. And the Duke certainly was a prime example of that unfairness.
When Sallie was threatened once again in her “use” to the Duke, she offered to collect the rents from his tenants, driving the whole day and bartering with poor people. And later on, when time was dire, she became a ruthless rhum runner and bootlegger. Sallie had all my love and admiration! I was in awe of her resilience, her determination to survive and thrive. She certainly forged a path for women, refusing to be less than the men, earning their respect and loyalty.
For two days, Janette Walls made me live in rural America of the bootleggers, where tough times needed tough people like Sallie and where you took care of your family and your people the best you could, even if you had to skirt the law and fully live in morally grey territory.
This was an excellent historical fiction and I know that I’ll read other books by that author.
Thanks for reading.