By Ryan Magee

Fourteen year-old Halley Franklin wants nothing more than to get an education and to leave her rural lifestyle behind. When her father dies in an accident however, those dreams are put on hold and Halley’s family must move in with her grandparents in order to survive the mountains of Georgia. Unfortunately, it is dismal household commanded through her miserly and tyrannical grandfather Pastor Franklin, and Halley must learn to accept their complacency while waiting for the Rapture. Set during the nation-wide struggle of the Great Depression, Halley begins a journey of self-discovery, spirituality, and womanhood in order to find her destiny.
Upon reading Halley, I had learned that author Faye Gibbons grew up during the time period and region in which the novel took place. I cannot imagine any better account than a first-hand one to describe the difficult life that was Depression-era Georgia, and Ms. Gibbons does so quite well. On each page, there are blunt and honest details in every chore, errand, and process that goes into running a family farm. Several times, I had to call my own grandmother to ask what was involved in the jobs that Halley and her family did to make money like tufting spreads, picking cotton, and working at a mill. Suffice to say, it was not an easy life, and Ms. Gibbons makes that quite evident and coherent.
In a clever way of paying tribute to the individuals who were born into that lifestyle, Gibbons does not build much emotional depth with her characters; rather, they are all very humble and ordinary people. Halley is the only character that the reader has any commentary on, and there is certainly plenty any young woman can relate to. Even a century ago, romance, insecurities, and social pressure all plagued a fourteen year-old, and I feel Gibbons gently tries to make that aware to this detached generation that is her audience.
As a young adult novel, Halley goes above and beyond. As an overall work of literature, I feel that there were a few issues that I found somewhat infuriating. I feel that there was not much creative license taken by Gibbons to really flesh out her vision. Moments that are critical to Halley’s life are gone in less than two paragraphs, and the feelings and nuances associated with them are either sparse or nowhere to be found. Many plot points as I can recall are resolved with a brief explanation or just seem to fade away.
But I suppose that cannot be much of a criticism if it’s similar to how life works. Events pass, only to exist in our mind. Halley isn’t a masterwork of American fiction by any means, but it is certainly is a simple reflection of how an elderly woman remembers her childhood. I feel that through living in this region of polite and quietly extraordinary folk, everyone knows of a young person feeling as Halley did, unsure of what fate has in store for them. If you feel that they would appreciate a bit of perspective, introduce them to Halley.
Published by NewSouth Books, Montgomery, Ala., Halley is available from NewSouth Books, and online.

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