When seven-year-old Bethany meets her six-year-old cousin Reana Mae, it's the beginning of a kinship of misfits that saves both from a bone-deep loneliness. Every summer, Bethany and her family leave Indianapolis for West Virginia's Coal River Valley. For Bethany's mother, the trips are a reminder of the coalmines and grinding poverty of her childhood, of a place she'd hoped to escape. But her loving relatives, and Bethany's friendship with Reana Mae, keep them coming back.
But as Bethany grows older, she realizes that life in this small, close-knit community is not as simple as she once thought. . .that the riverside cabins that hold so much of her family's history also teem with scandalous whispers. . .and that those closest to her harbor unimaginable secrets. Amid the dense woods and quiet beauty of the valley, these secrets are coming to light at last, with a force devastating enough to shatter lives, faith, and the bond that Bethany once thought would last forever.
Spanning four decades, Sherri Wood Emmons' debut is a haunting, captivating novel about the unexpected, sometimes shocking events that thrust us into adulthood--and the connections that keep us tethered, always, to our pasts.
Advance praise for Sherri Wood Emmons and Prayers and Lies
"From the first sentence, the voice of the narrator, Bethany, rings true and never falters. By the end of the book, I cared for every aunt and cousin, mother and sister, even the most troubled and dangerous. "Prayers and Lies" is the story of a family that knows how to love and forgive and get on with life." --Drusilla Campbell, author of "The Good Sister"
"Through the careful rendering of this dysfunctional family, Emmons makes us fall in love with Bethany Wylie, the young girl at the heart of this story, as well as her wayward cousin, Reana Mae. The evolution of their friendship--the way they grow together and grow apart--is heart-breaking." --T. Greenwood, author of "Two Rivers"
"Prepare to stay up all night reading Sherri Wood Emmons perfectly captures the devastating impact of family secrets in her beautifully written--and ultimately hopeful--debut novel. With its evocative setting and realistically crafted characters, "Prayers and Lies" is a must read for fans of rich family drama." --Diane Chamberlain, author of "The Lies We Told"
"A sweet, revealing tale of family, friendship, long-held secrets and includes the all-important ingredients of forgiveness and love." --Kris Radish, author of "The Shortest Distance Between Two Women"
"I loved it." --Cathy Lamb, author of "Such A Pretty Face"
We always knew when Bobby Lee came home. Folks up and
down the Coal River Valley heard the roar of his motorcycle
on the gravel road long before he tore around the final bend, turning
so sharp he lay nearly sideways on the ground. Sometimes he'd
be gone weeks at a time, sometimes just a few days. But his homecoming
He rode into the valley like a conquering hero. And Jolene, his
wife, would come flying out of their shabby cabin, long red hair
streaming behind her, just as Bobby Lee pulled into their little dirt
yard. He'd be off the huge bike in a flash as she ran down the two
broken and patched steps and into his arms. And then there would
be the kiss--scandalous for that rural West Virginia community in
the 1960s. We children would stand on our own porches or in the
road, gaping at the two of them, our mouths and eyes wide.
Usually, Reana Mae was waiting on the porch, too, but Bobby
Lee didn't notice her right off. His wife was such a whirlwind of
red curls and short skirts and hunger that their daughter--thin,
freckled, and silent--went unnoticed. After the kiss would come
gifts, if his haul had been a long one. Sometimes, Bobby Lee drove
his rig all the way from Charleston to California, and he brought
Jolene and Reana presents from pl