Saturday, November 2, 2013


Nancy Pickard's The Virgin of Small Plains has the strongest opening of any book I've read in a long time.

Abby Reynolds loses control of her car in a blizzard. She ends up in the cemetery where she finds the frozen body of a prominent Small Plains, Kansas, woman.

The woman seemed to be trying to make her way to the grave site of The Virgin of Small Plains.

The Virgin had been murdered seventeen years ago. Someone mutilated her face. 

Because no one knew who she was, the townspeople paid for her funeral and bought her headstone.

Now The Virgin is the source of miracles. Going to her grave can cause healing and other kinds of good fortune.

The Virgin seems to minister to those who are hurting. And Abby is still hurting.

That same night the Small Plains sheriff found the dead Virgin in a snow storm, Abby's lover Mitch ran away. Mitch was with Abby. They were about to have sex for the first time. He went to get a condom. Then he disappeared.

What did Mitch see that night? What happened back then? Who is The Virgin, and who killed her?

The answers to those questions involve three prominent Small Plains families. They are the families of a powerful judge, the local sheriff, and the local doctor (Abby's father).

As Abby works through the story. She again meets Mitch for the first time in seventeen years. He comes back to Small Plains, pulled back, he knows not exactly why.

After seventeen years, what happened that night and what Mitch saw that night destroys at least one generation of all three families.

This is a complex and valid story. Anyone who has lived in small towns (as I have most of my life) knows that small towns have their secrets. There are respected people who could well be, at heart, killers.

This is also a love story.

I said at the first that this story has a powerful opening. It also has a powerful and complex ending. The full working out of the events involved people and relationships which startled me.

I had a sample of this book on my reader for a long time. I chose to read it when I recently saw it reviewed on Kittling: Books. Somehow I had always suspected it was a book I'd like to read, but I never had gotten around to it. I was right. The Virgin of Small Plains is well worth reading.


Kelly Robinson said...

I'm a sucker for those "small town secrets" books. They can be pretty darn dark.

Joe Barone said...

Kelly, The secrets were quite dark in this book.