Mystery · Western

The Ballad of Frankie Silver

The Ballad of Frankie Silver by: Sharyn McCrumb

My cousin gave me The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter years ago and I lost it before I read it – but I found this book by the same author, picked it up and finally got around to reading it. This isn’t normally a book I would read – it’s almost Western style, and is heavily influenced by American folklore. These aren’t bad things, but they’re just not attention grabbers for me. (Louis L’Amour was the extent of my foray into Westerns.)

But I finally did read it – and I absolutely loved it. It was part mystery (not action mystery, mind you), part folktale, part historical, and pulled together with an overarching theme of social inequality. If you like any of those things you should read this book. I loved it best for her observations on social justice – a lot was said about socioeconomic status that I think in America often gets ignored because of the correlation/focus on racial inequality. Plus, the way it was presented was thought-provoking but not head-bashing. Rather, it was highlighted by character’s occasional observations and thoughts as opposed to author reflection. This made it an integral part of the story and much easier to internalize and think about – the point of the book was to tell a story and so I was much more accepting of what came along with that. I’m not terribly fond of books where the point is to bash something into the reader and the story is there as frill work. (Fiction, that is. Nonfiction is a whole ‘nother creature.)

A part of the story takes place in the 1800s, and it was a bit hard to switch between the two times – perhaps not the smoothest transitions. Reading those parts was also a bit like watching Mad Men – some of the attitudes (especially towards women) will make you glad it’s 2012. But I like how she used the past to draw correlations with the current plot line – and how well it’s tied into the story at the end. It’s perhaps a tiny bit contrived, but one can easily overlook that.

It’s a bit depressing but I love books that can do depressing well and I think this one succeeds. Anyway, I really enjoyed this book and I really loved thinking about the issues raised within it. I am definitely going to be looking for a copy of The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter – sorry it took so long, Kara, but great recommendation!


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