Being a single mother is never easy, but for Charlotte Holladay, a wannabe folk singer in 1970, raising her 15- and 12-year-old daughters, Liz and Jean (aka “Bean”), is more than she can handle.
Known for dropping out when things get tough, Charlotte’s latest spell of parental abandonment attracts police attention and the girls flee California rather than face being placed in foster care.
A cross-country bus trip lands them on the doorstep of their only relative, the previously unmet Uncle Tinsley, and their arrival proves to be as much of a shock for the reclusive widower as it is for the girls themselves.
As the trio learns to coexist, Liz and Bean try to fit into the small southern town. With money tight, they land jobs with mill foreman Jerry Maddox, an overbearing brute who runs roughshod over the town’s residents and takes advantage of Liz’s trusting nature, with devastating results.
Readers familiar with Walls’ backstory from her luminous memoir, The Glass Castle (2005), will recognize elements of her personal history in this captivating, read-in-one-sitting, coming-of-age adventure. –Carol Haggas