by Karen Lynn Nolan
Growing up in a coal mining camp is difficult enough. But, when Coreen Shell’s abusive father makes a promise for her thirteenth birthday that could destroy what’s left of her life, she resorts to a desperate prayer to a God she’s not sure exists. The next day, a flood washes through the coal camp, like a backhanded answer to her prayer. Coreen, her mother, and her crippled grandmother next door must climb the mountain to find refuge in a nearby church. Then, news of a murder changes everything, in a way Coreen never imagined.
Will Coreen and her damaged, dysfunctional family conquer the lies, secrets, hardship, and hatred … or be destroyed by them?
About the Author
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Coreen plucked a chenille thread from the faded bedspread and flung it into the dark space behind her cot. Tears blended with sweat and slid across her face. Stained curtains fluttered as a steamy breeze blew down the holler, through the coal camp, and into the dining room that served as her sleeping quarters.
The room seemed gloomier than usual. Dark shadows lurked in the corners and threatened to swallow up the buffet, discarded by a family who could afford something better. Its sagging drawers and chipped paint made her sad. The shadows closed in on her too as she lay on the metal cot, tucked into the corner like the Christmas gift nobody wanted.
Springs squeaked as Coreen turned away from the room and stared out the window. Mountains rose in every direction, like prison walls around the mining camp. She ran her fingers across a fresh bruise. If only she could escape. Especially today. Especially after what he did this morning—and what he said he planned to do tomorrow. But no matter how hard she tried, no answer came to mind.
A low rumble echoed through the hollers. The odor of dirt mixed with coal dust seeped through the window. A storm was coming. Coreen twirled her ponytail, nearly the color of the faded-yellow chenille bedspread beneath her, and wrapped it into a bun. A gust of wind whipped the curtains into the air, slapping her damp skin in a torturous dance.
A raindrop plopped onto the tin roof, then another and another until the sound resembled an approaching coal train. The intensity mirrored Coreen’s anxiety. She lay there listening, thinking about a solution to her problem, dreaming of a happy ending—until her eyes flickered and closed.
* * *
A boom exploded. Windows rattled and the cot shook. Coreen shot up with a gasp. An eerie yellow tint filled the room. Her heart pounded. “Mama? Mama? Where you at?”
All was silent except for the rumbles of thunder and the concussive pounding of rain on the roof. Across the room, light framed the door to her parents’ room. She listened. No sounds inside the house. Did it mean he wasn’t home yet? Was she safe for now?
Lightning sizzled outside her window and filled the house with pulsing flashes. A gust of wind picked up the rain-soaked curtains and slapped Coreen across the face. The thunder cracked with such violence, it seemed to lift the house into the air and drop it.
“Mama!” she screamed as terror wrapped itself around her.