After the hilarity of Nothing to See Here, Wilson takes on teen angst with a philosophical look at art having the power to create drama. Set in a small remote town in Tennessee in the doldrums of summer, two teens meet with explosive consequences.
Frankie has few friends, the torment of three older boisterous and trouble-seeking triplet brothers, and a single divorced mom in a relationship with the reporter for the town’s newspaper. Zeke has come to town from Memphis, as his violin-playing Mom seeks refuge with his Grandmother in the wake of cheating scandals by Zeke’s dad. Lonely and bored, Frankie works on a novel about an evil version of Nancy Drew while Zeke sketches art.
Together they create a poster based on a phrase that Frankie spontaneously comes up, and which Zeke surrounds with abstract drawings of hands and children. They restore an old copier in Frankie’s garage and start secretly putting up the posters all over town. Open to interpretation, the poster inspires both mystery and then dread: rumors circulate that it’s tied to a dangerous child snatching cult. Mayhem and death follow in what becomes known as the Coalfield Panic, and the consequences leave much for us readers to ruminate over.
Poignantly Frankie’s phrase is one that an older boy offered up to Kevim Miller one summer in youth when he was editing a hospital manual and inserting random text for entertainment: “The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us.” It’s been a phrase that Miller has repeated often to himself, and that inspired him to craft a novel around it. Sadly, in tracking down the boy who gave Miller the phrase died before publication and Miller dedicates the book to him.
Thanks to Ecco and NetGalley for an advanced reader’s copy.