Book Review: The Book of Polly by Kathy Hempinstall

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hempinstall (Pamela Dorman Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada, March 2017)

When I read a book I feel I really have something to say about, I post about it more than just on Goodreads.  Miss Polly and Willow just grabbed me from the beginning.  I wanted more people to know about their story.

Check it out (synopsis via Amazon).  I’ll tell you what I thought about it below.


With a kick like the best hot sauce, this is the laugh-out-loud story of a girl determined to keep up with her aging, crazy-as-a-fox mother

“If you ever pined for a mother who would take a hunting falcon as her wingman to a parent-teacher conference, Polly is the gal for you. Delicious.” –Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama

Willow Havens is ten years old and obsessed with the fear that her mother will die. Her mother, Polly, is a cantankerous, take-no-prisoners Southern woman who lives to chase varmints, drink margaritas, and antagonize the neighbors—and she sticks out like a sore thumb among the young modern mothers of their small conventional Texas town. She was in her late fifties when Willow was born, so Willow knows she’s here by accident, a late-life afterthought. Willow’s father died before she was born, her much older brother and sister are long grown and gone and failing elsewhere. It’s just her and bigger-than-life Polly. 

Willow is desperately hungry for clues to the family life that preceded her, and especially Polly’s life pre-Willow. Why did she leave her hometown of Bethel, Louisiana, fifty years ago and vow never to return? Who is Garland Jones, her long-ago suitor who possibly killed a man? And will Polly be able to outrun the Bear, the illness that finally puts her on a collision course with her past?

With a full cast of quirky characters, this one just got me in the feel goods.  I couldn’t help but chuckle my way through this.  Yet, there were some moments that hit you in the sads also.  Miss Polly surely was not expecting to have a child so late in life, but dang she one woman full of sassy strength (hot sauce indeed).  The mother-daughter relationship here is certainly not mainstream, but testament to the strength and bond these two have.  Willow may have been a “late in life after-thought”, but Polly pulls all punches to be all Willow needs.

I find it quite interesting on which books publishers decide to really get behind and market (when many they should have left behind). Then I find a bunch of over-looked, sparkling diamonds such as this one and I fall in love. I’m already thinking about who I will gift this to.

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