From Publishers Weekly: Starred Review. Set during the summer of '69 in rural Virginia, Kagen's stellar third novel, her first in hardcover, chronicles the dramatic changes in the lives of 11-year-old Shenny Carmody and her twin sister, Woody, nearly a year after their mother's disappearance. Woody hasn't spoken since, and their father, a renowned judge, spends most of his nights in a drunken stupor at Lilyfield, their Rockbridge County estate, often turning violent and cruel toward his two daughters. Shenny, adventurous and bright, takes it upon herself to locate their beloved Mama and discover why she left them. In her quest for the truth, Shenny learns many heart-wrenching lessons, not least among them that first impressions can be dead wrong. Kagen (Whistling in the Dark) not only delivers a spellbinding story but also takes a deep look into the mores, values, and shams of a small Southern community in an era of change. (May)When I emailed Karen McQuestion about starting my blog centered around Wisconsin authors, Lesley Kagen was on her list of recommendations. I found Lesley’s writing descriptive, detailed and illustrative and provocative; I had a hard time putting this book down. I personally felt it close to a suspense novel. These girls were always on the run from their abusive, alcoholic father, a smart-aleck nanny, and the prying eyes that come from living in a small town. To boot, their father was the town judge; the girls just couldn’t take a chance of being seen outside of their large home, Lilyfield, and face more abuse from His Honor. (The girls don't even call him father, dad or daddy; they have to call him "YOUR HONOR!) Shenny and Woody are twins, but Woody is older says Shenny. They have their own twin language and they are as close as twins can be. Shenny is determined, spunky, and opinionated. She calls it like she sees it. But she doesn't always say what she means. More than a few times, she's felt remorse on shooting off her mouth in the heat of the moment. But to her defense, she's running out of time - she has to find out what happened to their mother! Woody has seen something horrifying regarding their mother’s disappearance, and its left her traumatized, mute and borderline catatonic. Shenny takes over and watches out for sister. But she also has to find out what happened to their mother, convinced she will return for the girls and maybe even to their family. There are clues throughout of the possible resolution to the story, but never assume until the very last page. I loved the story, I loved the ending. These girls were resourceful; they persevered and will always be survivors. Shenny sought out the truth and as it always does, it set her and her sister free ultimately.
I checked out this book from my local library, on the same day that I also picked up Land of a Hundred Wonders. Please check out her books and website: www.lesleykagen.com. She resides in Milwaukee, WI and has a fascinating resume!