Sharon Rolens, raised in rural Illimois, is a professional muscian living in Denver, Colorado and author of published short stories and poetry, Worthy's Town is her first novel.
Old Kane, Ill., is ground zero for this folksy, smalltown narrative, a first novel rife with resilient do-gooders, town idiots and villains, sexual initiations, dubious parentage and two possible cases of murder. In 1925, Worthy and Willa Giberson, a farm couple in middle age, rear their grandson Cappy after his single 14-year-old mother, Chastity, dies in childbirth. Evil Drayton Hunt presents himself almost immediately as Cappy's father, vowing to "claim what's mine." He's rebuffed by grouchy-but-honorable Worthy and saintly Willa, but over the next several years swoops in periodically to menace Worthy and the town's other denizens as they gather around the stove at Pick's General Store to drink coffee and gossip. Inquisitive and irrepressible Cappy turns a childhood propensity for good-natured lying into a career as a fledgling journalist at the county newspaper. His slow-witted uncle Tick leaves home with the traveling Rev. Art Gimmy and becomes a performing "healer"Ddeveloping his own, lucrative brand of storytelling. By 1944, when Cappy's boyhood friend Beany Ozbun returns on leave from the army, Old Kane simmers with sinister undercurrents, racing toward tragedy, and Cappy plays amateur sleuth to uncover the biggest story of his life. With the backdrop of the Depression and WWII to provide a sure sense of time and place, the tale overflows with characters exhibiting country-folk quirkiness. Often awkward but humorous and engaging dialogue punctuate this nostalgic story of rural America, in which the complexity of smalltown human relationships brings depth to the murder-mystery plot that ensues. (Oct.) FYI: Worthy's Town was selected by Barnes & Noble for its Discover Great New Writers Program. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Rolens dips heavily into nostalgia for her first novel, a charming coming-of-age tale set in southwestern Illinois in the years before and during World War II. Worthy and Willa Giberson adopt their illegitimate grandson, Cappy, following the death of their daughter in 1925. A simple farmer, Worthy plans for Cappy to join him in working the farm as soon as he is old enough. When Cappy wins an eighth-grade essay contest, however, he is able to parlay his vivid imagination and love of a good story into a job at the local newspaper office, ultimately leading to his finishing high school and his first real job. But questions surrounding Cappy's parentage, Willa's death, and the murder of Cappy's best friend make Worthy's Town far more than a simple teenage success story. It becomes a beautiful view of the Great Depression and America at home during World War II; a finely honed character study of a town and its inhabitants, good and bad; and a classic tale of orchestrated retribution. The over-50 generation may especially enjoy this reminiscence of a simpler time, deftly combined with an engaging story of human foibles that never stoops to sentimentality. Recommended for all public libraries.DThomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ., Carbondale Lib. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Rolens can place her star next to Thronton Wilder, John Steinbeck. Denver's Rocky Mountain News