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Reviewed by Alle Wells for Readers' Favorite
Tess Collins and Theresa Collins tell a tale of a Kentucky coal mining town during the mid-to-late 20th century. Notown is a place where survival is up to the individual, regardless of age. In 1987, Randi Jo Gaylor thinks back on her life as she stands before the man that she intends to kill in the place where she was born. As a child, hunger and the “fear angel” were Randi Jo's constant companions in the meager shack that hangs on the edge of a coal miners’ mountain. One of thirteen children, she learned to steal what she craved. Lies and secrets became her only protection. As a teenager, Randi Jo’s luck takes a turn when her beauty catches the eye of a middle-class college boy. But no matter how hard she tries, Randi Jo knows that she’s still a nobody from Notown and that’s all she’ll ever be. Randi Jo is forced from a world where she doesn’t belong into the dark underworld she promised herself she’d never enter. Each day brings her closer to the realization that there are few choices for a poor girl from Notown.
Notown is a powerfully written story presented with hard, biting-edge characters bound by strong roots. Members of the Gaylor family are both lovable and horrifying. Randi Jo is raised by faithful and loving parents who possess an amazing sense of serenity amid the squalor of Notown. Her siblings are a blend of good and bad, tough and frail. I highly recommend Randy Jo’s story of ultimate survival. Some say that she has nine lives. After reading her story, I believe that is true.