Tornado Weather by Deborah Elaine Kennedy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Expected publication date: July 11, 2017
Note: I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Wow. This is probably one of my favorite books of 2017, and I hadn’t even heard of it before I requested it from Netgalley. The mystery sounded interesting to me, but I wasn’t expecting such a thoughtful and beautiful story of a small town in rural USA. I immediately looked for Kennedy’s other books to read before I remembered this is, incredibly, her debut novel.
The description says it’s about a young girl’s disappearance, but it is a much larger story about the entire town of Colliersville, Indiana. I grew up in a small town in the Rust Belt, long after all the steel mills left in the 70’s, so I recognize the problems Kennedy portrays in Colliersville. The narrow-minded prejudice, the unemployment, the difficulty of getting out, and the quick judgement on both outsiders and established families alike. In my hometown, your last name was often enough to tell teachers or employers what to assume about you, just like the Seaver’s in Tornado Weather. It was completely unfair and often based on something uncles or grandparents did long ago, yet it still haunts those who carry that name.
Also, heaven help you if you were different. I felt so bad for Willa growing up in that environment, because I saw firsthand how difficult it was for some of my classmates. The small town feeling and a child daring to be themselves reminded me of The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield (also an incredible novel).
While the main catalyst of the novel is young, wheelchair-bound Daisy’s disappearance, each chapter is told from a different resident’s POV. So many POVs can be tricky to pull off, but Kennedy manages to give each character a distinct voice and perspective that adds new layers to the town and other characters. Every character is brilliantly and tragically human, flaws and all. They didn’t necessarily shed more light on the disappearance, but they gave the reader a clearer picture of the town itself and how everyone is connected, whether they want to be or even know it.
I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a great character study of a small town with a tragic mystery thrown in.