REVIEWED BY REBECCA JOHNS
Lee Smith's first novel since her 2003 bestseller The Last Girls tells the story of Molly Petree, orphaned in the Civil War and growing up amid the horrors of Reconstruction in Agate Hill, N.C. Molly's life is itself a reconstruction, told in quaintly written fragments of letters, court records and snippets of poetry and journals: "... I mean to write in secrecy and stealth the truth as I see it. I know I am a spitfire and a burden." The epistolary form has awkward moments, and one record of events often conveniently picks up where the last one left off. But fans of Smith's earlier memorable heroines will find a familiar face in Molly, an independent and impetuous woman whose loves lead her into Dickensian tragedy.