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The Book of Polly: A Novel by Kathy…
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The Book of Polly: A Novel

by Kathy Hepinstall

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Polly grew on me. I've got to admit that I thought her character was a bit "over the top" at first, but I was certainly sympathetic and rooting for her by the end. Probably I just couldn't imagine being a girl so worried about my mother dying. A good read.
I admit I checked out this book because the daughter had the same name as my daughter--Willow. ( )
  juniperSun | Aug 8, 2018 |
Some humor, some heartbreak, really enjoyed this book. ( )
  kimkimkim | Jun 5, 2018 |
Joy's review: A fun book about a girl obsessed that her mother might die (because she was born when Mom was 50) trying to learn about her mother's past. Both Polly and daughter are very interesting characters. An unpretentious, nicely written, and entertaining book. ( )
  konastories | May 23, 2018 |
The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall is narrated by Willow Havens, who starts off the book as a precocious and headstrong adolescent. Willow lives with her widowed mother, Polly, who had her when she was 58 years old. Polly is a cantankerous, Southern Christian known by her family and throughout her neighborhood for her Southern inhospitality.

The reader follows Willow, who never knew her father—referred to as “The Captain” by her family—as she struggles through the ups and downs of being raised poor by her eccentric mother who clearly loves her dearly. Hepinstall skillfully inserts plot-driven elements throughout the novel that helped to keep me interested until the very end.

My reading of this novel was definitely enhanced by listening to the audiobook narrated by Jenna Lamia. Even though Jenna is a grown woman, her adolescent- and teenage-sounding voices of Willow sound completely believable. Moreover, I loved how her voice changed, chameleon-like, through the many colorful-sounding Southern characters in the book; and there are many.

My only major dislike about The Book of Polly is that there is a dark specter of violence lurking in the background throughout the novel. Being someone who prefers not to read novels peppered with violence, I only mention this because, while mostly suggested, the violence seemed gratuitous at times and never really enhanced the narrative. This is perhaps the only reason I didn't give the novel 5 stars. Otherwise, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a Southern, coming of age novel written by a seasoned author. ( )
  Goodlorde | Jan 27, 2018 |
LITERARY FICTION
Kathy Hepinstall
The Book of Polly: A Novel
Pamela Dorman Books
Hardcover, 978-0-3995-6209-9, (also available as an e-book and on Audible), 336 pgs., $26.00
March 14, 2017

‘“No one calls my daughter a liar,” [Polly] said, leaning on the word in a way that made me miserable because I was, in fact, a liar. And I had told some lies—and even worse, some truths—about my mother to my classmates. In my defense, she was great fodder, and this was years before she killed our neighbor.’

In a small town outside of Houston, Texas, Pauline “Polly” Perkins Havens, a fifty-eight-year-old widow, gives birth to a little girl, Willow, eight months after the sudden death of her husband. Never knowing her father and not really knowing her much older siblings, Willow is terrified Virginia Slims–smoking, margarita-aficionado Polly will die before Willow can get to know her (“It ruined the feel of guinea-pig fur and the crunchiness of popcorn”), leaving Willow unmoored in the world. Feeling cheated of her family and pressed for time, Willow is obsessed with learning Polly’s secrets (“The story was a blank stare and I wanted it to blink”). And Polly, having escaped her past in the swamps of Louisiana, does have secrets.

The Book of Polly: A Novel is Kathy Hepinstall’s smart, clever, sardonically hilarious, and moving story of the relationship between a mother and a daughter. A woman graces the cover of The Book of Polly wearing a strawberry-red skirt suit reminiscent of Jackie Kennedy, with impeccable hair and makeup, holding a garden trowel, a falcon perched on her shoulder. That’s right, I said a falcon; all will become clear.

The Book of Polly proceeds at a steady pace, not cluttered up with extraneous storylines. Hepinstall’s word choice is precise, her phrasing often a delightful surprise (“In my mind the worst-case scenario loped along like a runaway spaniel, leash trailing, enjoying its freedom and eluding all pursuers”). Hepinstall’s characters are quirky and complex; Polly is a bundle of inexplicable contradictions, like most of us, but mysteriously so to a child. It doesn’t help that Polly and Willow are a lot alike. Willow’s first-person narration, reflecting the imperfect understanding of a child, lends to the mystery.

Hepinstall’s dialogue will have you laughing aloud. Here Polly and Willow are discussing a dinner party during which Polly will try to charm the neighbors into helping pay for their shared backyard fence:

“Jesus says in the Bible to make friends with your enemies and turn the other cheek and really try the nice way first to get them to go in on a fence.”
“I don’t remember that particular verse,” [Willow] said.
“Well, maybe you should stop daydreaming about that Dalton boy in church, sassy brat.”

There is something classic about The Book of Polly, with the garden symbolizing time. “Time kept passing and passing no matter what we did. It had slid inside my training bra and made my breasts grow,” Willow says. “It had killed the eggplant crop and given birth to the peppers. It was, at this very moment, under my mother’s scarf, pulling up hairs like garden weeds.” I’m reminded of Anne Tyler or Jane Smiley, but with Jonathan Tropper’s sharper edge. Think Larry McMurtry’s Terms of Endearment, think Steel Magnolias. Note that Shirley MacLaine starred in both movies.

Y’all go hug your mothers.

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life. ( )
  TexasBookLover | May 14, 2017 |
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To my mother, Polly Hepinstall, precious cargo on the road of life.
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I'm not sure at what young age I became frozen with the knowledge, certainty, and horror that my mother would die one day.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399562095, Hardcover)

The laugh-out-loud story of a girl determined to keep up with her aging, crazy-as-a-fox mother and learn the truth of her mother’s long-secret past

Willow Havens is ten years old and obsessed with the fear that her mother will die. Her mother, Polly, is a cantankerous, take-no-prisoners Southern woman who lives to shoot varmints, drink margaritas, and antagonize the neighbors—and she sticks out like a sore thumb among the young modern mothers of their small conventional Texas town. She was in her late fifties when Willow was born, so Willow knows she’s here by accident, a late-life afterthought. Willow’s father died before she was born, her much older brother and sister are long grown and gone and failing elsewhere. It’s just her and bigger-than-life Polly. 

Willow is desperately hungry for clues to the family life that preceded her, and especially Polly’s life pre-Willow. Why did she leave her hometown of Bethel, Louisiana, fifty years ago and vow never to return? Who is Garland Jones, her long-ago suitor who possibly killed a man? And will Polly be able to outrun the Bear, the illness that finally puts her on a collision course with her past?

The Book of Polly has a kick like the best hot sauce, and a great blend of humor and sadness, pathos and hilarity. This is a bittersweet novel about the grip of love in a truly quirky family and you’ll come to know one of the most unforgettable mother-daughter duos you’ve ever met.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 20 Sep 2016 03:07:15 -0400)

"The laugh-out-loud story of a girl determined to keep up with her aging, crazy-as-a-fox mother and learn the truth of her mother's long-secret past...Willow Havens is ten years old and obsessed with the fear that her mother will die. Her mother, Polly, is a cantankerous, take-no-prisoners Southern woman who lives to shoot varmints, drink margaritas, and antagonize the neighbors--and she sticks out like a sore thumb among the young, modern mothers of their small conventional Texas town. She was in her late fifties when Willow was born, so Willow knows she's here by accident, a late-life afterthought. Willow's father died before she was born, her much older brother and sister are long grown and gone and failing elsewhere: it's just her and bigger-than-life Polly. Willow is desperately hungry for clues to the family life that preceded her, and especially Polly's life pre-Willow. Why did she leave her hometown of Bethel, Louisiana, fifty years ago and vow never to return? Who is Garland Jones, her long-ago suitor who possibly killed a man? And will Polly be able to outrun The Bear, the illness that finally puts her on a collision course with her past?"--… (more)

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