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The Virgin of Small Plains: A Novel by Nancy…

The Virgin of Small Plains: A Novel (2007)

by Nancy Pickard

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Nancy Pickard's 2006 novel "The Virgin of Small Plains" threatens now and then to become a traditional murder mystery, a traditional romance or a traditional supernatural fantasy, but Pickard cleverly controls these impulses and instead gives us an original novel not so easy to place into any category.

Mitch Newquist and Abby Reynolds, the offspring of two the most prominent families in the small town of Small Plains, Kansas, are just teenagers in love when the story opens. Then Mitch witnesses something so shocking, so horrible that it forces, him into exile. What he sees involves the body of a dead girl and the actions of both Abby's father, a physician, and the sheriff, the father of their friend, Rex Shellberger. Hearing his story, Mitch's father, the judge, sends him away, telling him he must never return and never reveal what he witnessed.

Years later, following the death of his mother, Mitch, now a lawyer, does return. Rex has succeeded his father as county sheriff. Abby, in a dead-end affair with Rex's worthless brother, still pines for Mitch. The older generation remains steadfast, unwilling to talk about that dead girl or to tolerate any attempts to get at the truth of who she was or how she died.

Meanwhile, the dead girl has become something of a saint, her grave attracting pilgrims seeking healing. Many of them claim to have found it.

Pickard's twisty plot, a succession of surprises, comes down to generational battle, the young punished for the sins of their elders without understanding what those sins are or why they should suffer for them, their parents believing that some things, including that girl in the grave, should stay buried. The real miracle wrought by the Virgin of Small Plains is the power of truth revealed. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Nov 11, 2017 |
Sheriff Shellenberger and his two teenage sons find the body of a dead girl in the fields as they are rounding up their cattle. Later that night one of the son's best friend witnesses the local doctor, attending by other members of the local establishment, bash in the dead girl's face so she will be unrecognizable. I thought this was a great set-up and one's curiosity was sustained thoughout the book as characters and plot were developed. ( )
  gbelik | Oct 26, 2017 |
quick fun read,kinda formulaic and kinda predictable but kept my attention. ( )
  mfabriz | Jun 26, 2017 |
Review: The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard.

At first when I choose this book from one of my last resort piles I thought it was a Christian or Amish novel by the looks of the cover. To my surprise it was an interesting suspenseful mystery. It’s not a five star but it still was pretty good. The characters are fascinating and the great writing kept me interested to the end. The story was well organized and the outcome was somewhat predictable.

It started with Abby Reynolds, a sixteen-year-old girl sneaking her boyfriend, Mitch Newquist in her bedroom at night during a snowstorm in Small Plains, Kansas. Her father was the town doctor whose office was attached to their home. All was quiet until Mitch needed to get something from the doctors office and in the meantime the phone rang and Abby’s father went down to open his office door for Mr. Shellenberger and his son Rex. Mitch got scared and hid in a medical supply closet with bare feet and only his pants on. The horror he seen that night went secret for seventeen years….Mitch told his parents what he saw but that only got Mitch sent away to another college the next morning….rumors started about why he left right after the girl’s body was found…. And not long after the Newquist adopted a new born baby boy they called Jeff…It’s as if Mitch was being replaced…He never came back for his mother’s funeral…Then on Memorial Day, seventeen years later, he decide to visit his mother’s grave and see his brother…

It wasn’t a big town but there were some businesses still thriving in the area and some animal herding. As the snow storm was getting worse the Shellenberger family, the father and two sons, Rex and Patrick went out to bring what cows and calf’s they could round up to bring them into shelter. While they were out they came across a naked frozen young female in the snow and not knowing what to do they took the body to the office of Doctor Reynolds. It was such a small town that everyone was close friends and took care of each other. They all claimed they didn’t know who the dead girl was so the town took care of the unidentified corpse and placed her in a grave at the back of the town’s cemetery with a wooden cross. As time went on she was known as the Virgin of Small Plains because people believed visiting her grave, miracles could happen…

On Memorial Day Mitch returned to Small Plains and there were tornado warnings in the area…Everyone was heading to storm cellars or some kind of safe place. In the meantime Mitch decided to stay in town for awhile, which he didn’t plan, but he felt it was time to unbury the secrets of “The Virgin”….and give her a name….. ( )
  Juan-banjo | Sep 17, 2016 |
For the most part, THE VIRGIN OF SMALL PLAINS is an excellent mystery, the kind readers will be anxious to keep reading. It is a murder mystery, yes, but as the best mysteries are, this book is much more than that. It examines lies and relationships and the possibility of miracles. Plus, the substory of a separate character in need of a miracle is placed in this story to make it even more complex.

But it's a 4- out of 5-star book. THE VIRGIN OF SMALL PLAINS loses a point because its language is simple, sounding more like a young adult than an adult novel. This is especially true of the first and the last couple chapters. The book begins with teenage sex and their silly situation, neither of which do much for an adult reader. The last chapters tie everything up neatly, reminding me, again, of a YA novel.

Adults should enjoy this, though, if they don't mind simple prose, a convenient end, and a plot-driven more than character-driven novel. They will appreciate its complex mysteries. ( )
  techeditor | Jul 1, 2016 |
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Abby Reynolds braked her truck on the icy highway, startled by what she imagined she saw off to the side of the road.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345471008, Paperback)

Small Plains, Kansas, January 23, 1987: In the midst of a deadly blizzard, eighteen-year-old Rex Shellenberger scours his father’s pasture, looking for helpless newborn calves. Then he makes a shocking discovery: the naked, frozen body of a teenage girl, her skin as white as the snow around her. Even dead, she is the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. It is a moment that will forever change his life and the lives of everyone around him. The mysterious dead girl–the “Virgin of Small Plains”–inspires local reverence. In the two decades following her death, strange miracles visit those who faithfully tend to her grave; some even believe that her spirit can cure deadly illnesses. Slowly, word of the legend spreads.

But what really happened in that snow-covered field? Why did young Mitch Newquist disappear the day after the Virgin’s body was found, leaving behind his distraught girlfriend, Abby Reynolds? Why do the town’s three most powerful men–Dr. Quentin Reynolds, former sheriff Nathan Shellenberger, and Judge, Tom Newquist–all seem to be hiding the details of that night?

Seventeen years later, when Mitch suddenly returns to Small Plains, simmering tensions come to a head, ghosts that had long slumbered whisper anew, and the secrets that some wish would stay buried rise again from the grave of the Virgin. Abby–never having resolved her feelings for Mitch–is now determined to uncover exactly what happened so many years ago to tear their lives apart.

Three families and three friends, their worlds inexorably altered in the course of one night, must confront the ever-unfolding consequences in award-winning author Nancy Pickard’s remarkable novel of suspense. Wonderfully written and utterly absorbing, The Virgin of Small Plains is about the loss of faith, trust, and innocence . . . and the possibility of redemption.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:23 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Seventeen years after the discovery of a female murder victim near Small Plains, Kansas, the girl's grave has become the source of strange miracles and legends, until the return of prodigal son Mitch Newquist threatens to bring old secrets to light.

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