4 out of 4 stars
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Annie Elizabeth Jordan, affectionately nicknamed Cricket, loses her father to World War II when she is just a little girl. In the midst of all the sadness that her family feels for the loss of her dad, the only things that Cricket is looking forward to are the arrival of her baby brother, Max, and her summer trip to Everett, Washington, where her grandparents live. Cricket does not know that her summer of childhood games and fun will be abruptly interrupted by a terrible event: the murder of her thirteen-year-old friend, Mary Frances. If that was not enough for little Cricket to go through, her beloved grandfather, a retired judge who is determined to serve justice to Mary Frances and her family, has become the target of hateful actions. Cricket knows something that her grandfather is not aware of, but will she have the courage to speak up? Who murdered Mary Frances?
The first thing that drew me to The Shingle Weavers Picnic is the cover, which portrays an idyllic childhood scene. The sense of childhood adventures, excitement, and curiosity exuded by the cover is excellently reflected in the narration and the characters. The reader is invited to join Cricket and her group of friends as they play in the streets, tell each other secrets, and explore their surroundings. P.C. Smith’s exquisite narration brings out many of the peculiar nuances that characterize childhood: the desire for adventure, the lightheartedness of summer, and the willingness to fit in. However, in the midst of this childhood innocence, the dark shadows of death, abuse, violence, and World War II haunt Cricket and her friends, as they are exposed to events that they do not have the tools to comprehend. The author does not spare gruesome details, but she narrates the events with graceful precision, like you would to a child that you do not want to upset but you cannot lie to, as truthfully and as delicately as possible.
The narration flows exquisitely as the events unfold, and P.C. Smith is able to recount them from the perspectives of different characters. The brutal event of Mary Frances’s murder is reconstructed through Cricket’s observations, her grandfather’s methodical research and commitment to justice, and the gossip that the people of Everett weave into the story. While I usually do not enjoy reading stories with multiple perspectives, the author did a wonderful job of being faithful to the storyline while exploring different characters and perspectives. We are introduced to a strict but caring sheriff, a gossipy old lady, a child who has been accused unjustly, a judge who faces violent backlash for his involvement in a thorny case, a tenacious old lady who survived domestic abuse, and a bubbly teenager who will be punished for her willingness to explore herself and the world. P.C. Smith does not limit herself to illustrating each character’s perspective about the murder: she situates each character into their own personal story while showing that, in spite of their differences, a single event can intertwine their lives in the most unexpected ways.
I have nothing even remotely negative to note about The Shingle Weavers Picnic. I only found one minor error related to a missing period, which makes me deduce that the book has been excellently edited. There are a few profanities, but they have not been overused. The writing flows flawlessly, and I had a hard time putting the book down. Even the descriptions of food, scenery, and everyday life are so enthralling that they kept me glued to the pages.
My rating for The Shingle Weavers Picnic by P.C. Smith is a perfect 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy engrossing storylines and historical fiction set in the United States during World War II.
The Shingle Weavers Picnic
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