Transformation is the hallmark of any well-drawn character, but in her heart-rending first novel, Shadows of Pecan Hollow, author Caroline Frost asks whether real transformation is attainable for everyone. Can a very bad man ever be redeemed? Can a lost girl find herself when she’s grown? Can people who are ridiculed or ignored by society learn to believe in their worth without relying on validation from others?
At 13, Kit has no reason to trust adults. She’s been shuffled around among a number of foster families, starved and even beaten. When an older man named Manny shows Kit simple yet unfamiliar kindness, she becomes his loyal companion. Though he gains her trust, he’s a con artist and a thief, and he’s only able to care for Kit through his ill-gotten gains.
Manny recruits Kit for small thefts and then gun-toting robberies, and over time they become notorious partners in crime, wanted by the police. Their life is not just itinerant but also dangerous, and when Kit becomes pregnant with their child, a shift in her perspective allows her to look at Manny and their violent delights with fresh eyes. Yet years later, when Manny is released from prison and comes for their daughter, Kit learns that the hard life isn’t so easy to leave behind.
Frost puts her background as a marriage and family therapist to good use in crafting Kit. Less perceptive writers may have written Kit as a cliché, but Frost guides the reader to understand Kit’s story and the reasons behind her susceptibility to a charismatic egotist. Shadows of Pecan Hollow will be heartbreaking for readers wiser and more experienced than young Kit, as they’ll be able to see Manny’s manipulation and violence for what it really is: abuse. Frost’s relationship expertise also shines in crafting the dynamic between adult Kit and her untameable daughter, Charlie.
At over 400 pages, Shadows of Pecan Hollow takes readers on a long journey—not unlike Kit’s journey to find a home. It will especially resonate with readers who have their own hard-won stories of survival.