Family past and present loom large in tiny East Winder, a strict evangelical community in rural Kentucky. And no family looms larger than that of thirteen-year-old Charmaine Peake. Her grandfather was a famous revival evangelist, but her current circumstances are overshadowed by her prophet father, recently committed to a psychiatric institution. Her grandmother is a one-time debutante in physical decline, and her mother—thrown into a marital crisis she deeply resents—has started turning to Charmaine for impossible answers.
When financial desperation forces them to move into a trailer on the river, Charmaine must adjust to an unfamiliar and seemingly hostile community. Female friendships there take complicated root. Sexuality becomes something to reckon with. Back in town, a sanctimonious missionary kid occupies her real bedroom, where she uncovers his stash of troubling photos. And as Charmaine and her mother battle it out within close quarters, her father’s return becomes less and less likely. Through it all Charmaine tries to pray without ceasing, as her father taught, but with so much upheaval even God seems hard to reach.
Like the beloved Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Lay It on My Heart unleashes Southern humor in the face of a parent’s mental illness. It brings us into the heart of a complex family weathering the toughest patch in their lives, and highlights the moving and hilarious nature of a fragile mother-daughter relationship. But most of all, it illuminates the stark realities of adolescence, the emergence of compassion, the first keen pangs of losing one’s place in the world, and the power that comes from discovering who you are. This revelatory, heartwarming book fulfills Angela Pneuman’s promise as “a stunning new talent to watch” (O, The Oprah Magazine).