Writing: 4/5 Plot: 2.5/5 Characters: 4/5
Minerva Place, church organist, piano teacher, and long time resident of Paducah, Kentucky. Relatively crusty with a deeply suspicious nature and a dislike of personal interactions of any sort, Minerva does have one angle in her life which is quite engaging: she often visits the local cemetery, finds an interesting gravestone, researches the person portrayed and … is often visited by the spirit of that person who sets her story straight. Newcomers to the town — engineer Robert McAlpin and his seven year old, somewhat undisciplined son, George — appear on her doorstep requesting piano lessons. From this set of characters the story follows three separate lines simultaneously: the current day, the slow unfolding of Minerva’s person history, and the elaborations of the lives of the cemetery denizens, injected with Minerva’s imagination to fill the blank spots. There is personal growth and a real shift in Minerva’s life — however it comes rather slowly, and I admit to skimming a bit at the end. I really enjoyed Minerva’s creative stories about the historical figures interspersed in the narrative, but too much of the story focussed on shame and guilt (for my taste) and took too long to get to a (weakly) positive resolution.
Thank you to Regal House Publishing and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on June 20th, 2023