In 1972, on Mudas Summers' seventeenth birthday, her beloved Mama, Ella, is found hanging from the rafters of their home. Most people in Peckinpaw, Kentucky, assume that Ella's no-good husband did the deed. Others think Ella grew tired of his abuse and did it herself. Muddy is determined to find out for sure either way, especially once she finds strange papers hidden amongst her mama's possessions.
But Peckinpaw keeps its secrets buried deep. Muddy's almost-more-than-friend, Bobby Marshall, knows that better than most. Though he passes for white, one of his ancestors was Frannie Crow, a slave hanged a century ago on nearby Hark Hill Plantation. Adorning the town square is a seat built from Frannie's gallows. A tribute, a relic--and a caution--it's known as Liar's Bench. Now, the answers Muddy seeks soon lead back to Hark Hill, to hatred and corruption that have echoed through the years--and lies she must be brave enough to confront at last.
Kim Michele Richardson's lush, beautifully written debut is set against a Southern backdrop passing uneasily from bigotry and brutality to hope. With its compelling mystery and complex yet relatable heroine, Liar's Bench is a story of first love, raw courage, and truths that won't be denied.
The Sexy Nerd's Review...
I decided to treat my new year off with a great southern noir story. I’m happy to say it was a decent read and quite captivating.
Back in the late 1800s, Frannie Crow was a slave who was accused of trying to poison the mistress of the house. Of course, Frannie begged and pleaded that she did not do any such thing and that there must have been some sort of mistake. Her pleas fell on deafened ears, and she was summoned to be hanged.
Fast forward to 1972, where seventeen year-old Muddy “Mudas” Summers is happy because it’s her birthday and she’s going to spend some time with her mom and baby sister. Except, when she gets to her mother’s home, she finds her mother dangling from the ceiling. What was supposed to be Muddy’s happy moment turned out to be a horrible nightmare. Her mother’s home was crawling with police everywhere. Muddy’s father comes to the scene to try and console her and see if he can find out how this happened. The police ruled her mother’s death as a suicide. Well, that can’t be. Ella was looking forward to seeing her eldest daughter and the police chief is telling them she killed herself.
A very distraught and grief-stricken Muddy seeks to find out just what happened to her mother. And while she’s doing that, her good friend, Bobby Marshall, comes along for the ride. And that, readers, is where our story takes off.
I enjoyed the journey of these characters but the problem I had is it felt as though Mudas’ grief was in real time versus an actual story line time frame. Almost fifty percent of the story was dealing with her grief and that grated on my nerves. I realize she went through a traumatic situation, but did the reader need to come along? It was pretty obvious the character was dealing with trauma, but what I would have loved to see is more sleuthing to find out what happened to Ella, versus dealing with Mudas’ grief.
I also found a great deal of detail in areas I didn’t feel was necessary. Again, that’s a pet peeve of mine, but I wanted to just delve into the story instead of hearing all the backstories, although having said that, I realize why the author did that because it sets the reader up for the information we’ll receive later through the story. I just would have preferred not to have to read it, of which I did skip some sections so I could get back into the story.
The Sexy Nerd gives Liar’s Bench four extra benches to sit on. Overall, this was a dynamic story. Reader beware there may be some content in this story not suitable for all reading tastes. There is racism, bigotry, and some violence. If you love a good southern read, I most definitely recommend this one. Until next time, you know what to do.