This novel gives us a glimpse of dysfunctional family life in a small town in the 1950's as shown through the eyes of 10 year old narrator Sally O'Malley. Sally's dad is dead, her mother is in the hospital, her older sister is occupied with her boyfriend, and her stepdad is out getting drunk and chasing women. Sally and her 9 year old sister Troo are left to their own devices, bouncing from house to house and relying on the kindness of neighbors to keep them warm and fed. The neighborhood is fraught with tension as there is a murderer and molester on the loose. Sally is a child with an overactive imagination who is certain she knows who the murder is and just as certain he is coming after her next. Her one goal is to keep her younger sister safe and not get caught by the killer herself.
Everywhere I looked, this book got 4 and 5 star reviews. For some reason it just did not connect with me the way it apparently has with other readers. Sally is a likeable character, full of innocence and the author does a good job of making the young girl point of view believable. The problem for me I think is that younger sister Troo was not really likeable at all and even though the book states they are nine and ten, the O'Malley sisters seemed older to me. For instance, Troo takes up smoking in the book (at age 9?). I remember when I tried cigarettes (for the first and last time) I was in middle school, not 3rd or 4th grade. Also I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the characters. There were so many it was hard to get to know any of them except for the main two which I think detracted from the story. By time the murderer was revealed, I was having trouble remembering anything about him.
I was also a little perplexed by how little Sally and Troo seemed to worry about their mother being absent and not being bothered when they couldn't see her. Most children would be pretty distraught if their mother was absent for a long period of time. The story was redeemed a little bit with the subplot. Sally finds that an important person in her life is not who she thought he was. I will say that this novel is outside my usual genre and given the fact that it got so many positive reviews elsewhere, I may just be the odd person out who didn't connect with the story. I'd be interested to hear what others who have read it think. For me it was just ok.