Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night
About This Book
Almost everyone in town blames eight-year-old Violet Morgan for the death of her nine-year-old sister, Daisy. Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night opens on September 4, 1913, two months after the Fourth of July tragedy. Owen, the girls’ father, “turns to drink” and abandons his family. Their mother Grace falls victim to the seductive powers of Grief, an imagined figure who has seduced her off-and-on since childhood. Violet forms an unlikely friendship with Stanley Adamski, a motherless outcast who works in the mines as a breaker boy. During an unexpected blizzard, Grace goes into premature labor at home and is forced to rely on Violet, while Owen is “off being saved” at a Billy Sunday Revival. Inspired by a haunting family story, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night blends real life incidents with fiction to show how grace can be found in the midst of tragedy.
This poignant debut novel is epic in its bittersweet scope and depth of emotion. I was absolutely riveted from page one, and it surpassed all my expectations in terms of originality, historical accuracy, creativity, and emotional impact. The prose is visual and descriptive, at times achingly so, and is well-grounded in the historical setting and time. The dialogue is well-balanced and really enhances the characterizations. The overall writing style is literary, with creative use of classical techniques such as emotional personification and even a Greek Chorus.
Without a doubt, the characters are the heart, soul, and strength of this story. There are more than a dozen named characters, at least half of which are point-of-view characters, but they are surprisingly easy to keep track of, so distinctly are they written. While “head-hopping”—inexplicably changing points-of-view mid-scene, mid-paragraph or mid-sentence—is generally frowned upon in today’s publishing circles, it actually works with this story. I loved the personification of Grief, too: as a character, he really added emotional depth to Grace’s character trying to cope with the death of her child. The widow across the street, the orphaned playmate, the church busybodies, the miners, even the stubborn mule—are are brought to vivid life and really made me cheer for each of them.
The book is primarily a linear story, incorporating the occasional flashback, and I absolutely loved the Chorus of gossipy church women who set the stage for each subsection of the novel. The gentler pace of action really hearkens back to the book’s 1913 setting, and the turn-of-the-century, daily-life details are spot on. This fictional story is firmly rooted in its real life people and events, exactly as Historical Fiction should be.
This isn’t a romance, but the relationship between Grace and Owen is rife with tension, as the loss of their child—possibly at the hands of their other daughter—drives an insurmountable wedge between them. And the flashbacks showing how in love they once were really crank up the conflict.
There are some spiritual elements to this story, though it isn’t a Christian novel. The characters attend church primarily because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do. They have family Bibles and social gatherings, and denominations are divided largely by cultural heritage. Billy Sunday brings his revival meeting to town and fires up the citizens with sermons against “forbidden amusements,” including drinking, dancing, and gambling. Most of the characters express any relationships with God in terms of their fear of hell and damnation, but over the course of the story, many of them come to realize a more personal reliance upon Him.
This book will appeal to mature readers who love carefully plotted, character-driven stories with deeply engaging characters and emotional storylines. As a relatively “clean” general market novel, it may also appeal to many Christian fiction fans, especially those who prefer edgier stories. For my part, this is one of the most original stories I have read in a long, long time. It would make a beautiful movie one day!
In conclusion, this haunting story of tragedy and hope in an early 20th Century mining town is not a nuclear blast—it’s an expertly crafted arrow that shoots straight for the heart. Reminiscent of classics such as How Green Was My Valley or, more recently, the Hallmark Channel’s original dramatic series, When Calls the Heart, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night is a must-read for fans of character-driven, authentic historical fiction. I look forward to reaching more from this visionary new author.
Available July 1, 2014 from Kaylie Jones Books