It's 1960 in the Panhandle town of Charnelle, Texas—a year and a half since sixteen-year-old Laura Tate's mother boarded a bus and mysteriously disappeared. Assuming responsibility for the Tate household, Laura cares for her father and three brothers and outwardly maintains a sense of calm. But her balance is upset and the repercussions of her family's struggles are revealed when a chance encounter with a married man leads Laura into a complicated relationship for which she is unprepared. As Kennedy battles Nixon for the White House, Laura must navigate complex emotional terrain and choose whether she, too, will flee Charnelle.
A heartfelt portrait of a young woman's reckoning with the paradoxes of love—eloquent, tender, and heart-wrenching—K. L. Cook's unforgettable debut novel marks the arrival of a significant new voice in American fiction.
I was surprised to learn that the author of this book, K.L. Cook, was a man. The story is told from a 16 year old girl's point of view, and he does an excellent job with it. This is the bittersweet story of a young girl growing up in the Texas panhandle in the early 1960's, who falls in love with a married man almost twice her age. A chance encounter brings them together on New Years Eve, 1959, and as that decade ends and a new one begins, they begin an affair that neither one of them could imagine the course that it would take. Laura's life at home is not one of a normal teenage girl, as she has taken on the roll of mother and caretaker to her brothers and her father, after her mother leaves one day, and never comes back. Dealing with the emotional shock from losing her mother and wanting to feel loved and appreciated, the affair that she has with John Letig fills the void of loneliness and loss for her. As anticipated, no affair can end without heartache and grief. Neither one of them is prepared for what the future brings.