There's even a healthy injection of humor in the book's veins.
All three women are haunted and riddled with anxiety, fretting over matters large and small as Karen's execution date draws near. For Franny, it's the decision to dump her shallow, soulless boyfriend and head down to her hometown in Texas where her uncle once volunteered as a prison doctor.
For Celia, it's wondering why she's sleeping with a boy half her age whom she met in the post office while mailing a letter to her husband's killer. For that killer, Karen, of course, it's reconciling her dark past with her equally dark future "The worst part is that everybody is going to watch me go".
We're also introduced to several other women on Death Row, each of them with distinct personalities which avoid falling into the high camp of chicks-behind-bars B movies. Ward immediately puts us inside the lives of her characters with a rapid-fire voice that keeps the action crackling along, yet is lyric enough to slow down and savor the details -- like these thoughts running through Karen's head:.
Ward also captures the sounds and smells of prison life, including details like how guards remove the sticks from corn dogs before serving them for lunch.
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She builds credibility at every turn of the page. Fortunately, Nat soon exits the book, stage left, and we're allowed to concentrate fully on the lives of the Death Row women, the widow, and the doctor. One more thing: let me send up my own personal thanks to heaven that Ward didn't feel compelled to include a clock-ticking finale where everyone stands around waiting for a phone call from the governor.
Sleep Toward Heaven
Her climax is suspenseful, but it goes in a different and more satisfying direction than the ones we're used to seeing in the movies. Ward works with a film editor's pace, snipping and cutting quickly between the three women as they each try to piece together lives shattered by violence and disappointment. The result is a novel that reads like lightning, but has the lasting roll of thunder.
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April She begins to rediscover herself through the lens of her past as she revisits her Gatestown roots to bury the uncle who raised her. In Austin, Texas, a day's drive from Gatestown, Celia Mills, a once sublimely happy and vibrant young librarian, clutches on to the essence of her slain husband as she struggles to continue a life without him, to reclaim her hallmark brio, and to foster her will to live a normal life.
Amanda Eyre Ward, author of Sleep Toward Heaven - Kelly Braffet
In the backdrop of this fictional Texas town, peppered with oddball natives who are often deluged by media obsessed with ideology and death penalty rhetoric, Ward puts faces to people who are as funny as they are morbid -- people who deal with overwhelming issues in daily doses. The Book Report Network. Skip to main content.