Snakes & Stones
By Lisa Fowler
Hardcover, 287 pages
2016, Sky Pony Press
Chestnut Hill travels with her three younger siblings and father selling “elixir” to anyone their father can trick. But Chestnut is working on her own scheme – to get back to her mother, who their father stole the children from. After one of Chestnut’s stunts lands her father in jail, she learns that her life is not quite as it seems.
For some reason, I thought there was a supernatural element to this book – there isn’t, but I wasn’t disappointed by that. This book is set in the south during the early 1920s. Chestnut has a strong, backwoods accent, yet instead of being distracting or hard to decipher, it felt genuine and earnest. She is around twelve and is tasked with caring for her sister and two brothers, seven-year-old triplets, while they travel around the southern states in their father’s caravan selling his lies.
Chestnut hates her situation in life, not just because she knows they’re lying to strangers, or because they never seem to have enough food to eat and that their clothes are falling apart, but because she feels her daddy stole her and her siblings away from their mama one day while she was out of the house. Chestnut is doing her best to leave some sign of where they’ve been and where they’re going, in hopes that her mother, who must surely be searching for her children, will find them.
I loved Chestnut. She is honest and caring and strong-willed. She is realistically annoyed by her siblings (I certainly wanted to smack them), yet does everything she can to take care of them. Her mixed feelings in regards to her father and how she feels about her place in the family lend depth to the story and her character. I don’t think the story would have been nearly as powerful if it had a third person narrator.
My only real issues with this book come from the ending. Without saying too much, we find out more about Chestnut’s father’s way of life and I felt like I was supposed to see him in a new light. In regards to some aspects I did, however, I also thought he was a huge hypocrite. I have issues with the way things concluded with Chestnut’s mother. There’s one quote in particular that felt incredibly unbelievable, but unfortunately, I can’t share it without ruining the end.
While things didn’t wrap up in what I would consider a very satisfying manner, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book and the overall tone. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t also mention what I consider to be a fabulous cover as well! This is a solid middle-grade story and I found the time period refreshing, as I feel like I’ve been reading either modern or complete fantasy reads lately. I definitely recommend it!
I received this book for free from Sky Pony Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
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