This is definitely a book where unhappy families are the name of the game. We begin with the murder of our heroine Irene's son and things are really pretty dang grim from there on in. The writing is both gripping and powerful, but there are quite a few occasions where it strays rather too much into the melodramatic. The middle of the book is also too long, and we did by then need to get to the point of the story.
The great mystery is what really happened when Shep (the son) died, and the events that led up to this and immediately away from it. I have to say that I guessed what was going on by Page 10, but it didn't take away my enjoyment - as Irene didn't have a clue and it's always good to have a clueless heroine, when the reader knows so much more.
That said, I thought the reasons behind the murder were appallingly old-fashioned - did people really think in that way in mid-90s rural America??!? Then again, at last, we in rural UK have something to be proud of, as surely we got over all that kind of nonsense in the 1970s. Hey ho.
The ending is spot-on, however, and I loved the way the family came to some kind of resolution with their past, and with some kind of hope for the future too. It left me with a good feeling, which is always to be desired in any book.
Verdict: 3.5 stars. Gripping but a little melodramatic