I first "met" Tawni O'Dell probably close to 12 or 15 years ago, when I read her book BACK ROADS. I talk to my students all the time about getting lost in a book ... that when you do get lost in a book, that is a good thing. No! It's a GREAT thing to get lost in a book.
As I get older and become a more sophisticated reader (whatever that means), I find it more and more difficult to lose myself in books. Tawni O'Dell's first step out, BACK ROADS, lost me hopelessly in the depraved plot. It was an amazing book, but not in the TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD sort of way. To be sure, BACK ROADS was a book that left you speechless at the end ... that made you stop and say, "Wait a minute! Did I just read that!?" I was lost ...
Her writing is good and strong and believable and the furthest thing from contrived. And the thing that I like about O'Dell is that, with her subject matter, she is able to explain dysfunction in a way that makes the reader understand and, oftentimes, relate some how ... that environment often dictates dysfunction.
In the book SISTER MINE, O'Dell writes what she knows best, about the lives that are eeked out the shadow of a struggling mining town. I find this subject matter particularly interesting to me now, as I'm living in a state that names coal and the coal mining industry as its number one industry/natural resource. This book is a play on words as it deals with two sisters and the way their lives have unraveled in the shadow (redundant, I know, but necessary nonetheless) of sister mines that have wrecked so many of the lives that hang in a very tenuous balance. It's a book about the fragility of the human psyche as well as the strength of the human mind.
I loved, as always, how O'Dell manages to weave humor throughout the dark, deep crevices of human depravity, and helps the reader see that, despite the ugliness, hope does spring eternal.
I'm not going to say this is her best book ever. I hold to my word that BACK ROADS is my favorite Tawni O'Dell book. However, SISTER MINE is a good book, and one that is worth the read.