Girlhood is hard. Surviving it in the strange wilderness of Blackfern County is a challenge like no other. Liz Zimmers’s Blackfern Girls entices with parlor tricks, whispers of abandonment, and tempts innocence to desperate measures, revealing the lethal dangers of coming of age in a place where reality shivers and changes like a theatre scrim.
In “The Undertakers,” Frankie Blanchard’s mother abandons the eight year-old girl on her sister’s remote farm. Frankie’s cousins, Ariel and Poppy, are less than happy to receive her. They have a horrifying secret of their own, and Frankie must find the courage to save another innocent.
In “The Skeptic,” Juliet Pinkney is born into a tradition of paranormal chicanery, and takes for granted that contact with spirits is a ruse perpetrated on the marks. At the same time her first love blossoms in all its sweetness, she is confronted with the dark reality of Sparrowgate House, and pays a terrible price for her disbelief.
In “Local Honey,” Sylvia Peach stands on the cusp of young womanhood, and at the precipice of a repulsive marriage. Her yearning for independence and romance lead her to an alliance with the strange Dark sisters, and the enigmatic Nathan Love. In their forest inn, she will learn that death is a long and varied journey.
In “The Queen of Ever After,” Cricket Carpenter spins worlds, and companions, from air. Abandoned by her father, and orphaned when first her mother, and then her beloved grandmother die, she embarks on a quest for the mythical land of Ever After accompanied by her imaginary father figure, Pop, and Rob, the wild young farm hand.
It takes a special kind of storytelling to allow a reader to fall in love with a deadly, haunted place, and that it exactly what happened when I stepped inside Elizabeth Yon's Johns Woods, the backdrop for all four stories in Blackfern Girls.
Ms. Yon has a distinct talent for lifting the veil between the world we know and what we cannot see, what is tangible and that which lurks in the corner of our eye. What her very human characters face when the veil lifts tests their mettle at every turn; the outcomes surprise.