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July 2020 Indie Next List
“This astonishing debut fills the imagination with vivid scenes of life in Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation and in the oil country of Texas. Home can be hard to find, men can be forever unreliable, and poverty can be more brutal than the harsh rural landscape, but the bonds women form with their mothers, grandmothers, and daughters make life not just bearable but luminous. This is an astonishing debut novel, rich in Cherokee history and culture, full-bodied in terms of character, and as bighearted as the women it portrays.”
— Betsy Burton, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT
It's 1974 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and fifteen-year-old Justine grows up in a family of tough, complicated, and loyal women, presided over by her mother, Lula, and Granny. After Justine's father abandoned the family, Lula became a devout member of the Holiness Church - a community that Justine at times finds stifling and terrifying. But Justine does her best as a devoted daughter, until an act of violence sends her on a different path forever.
Crooked Hallelujah tells the stories of Justine--a mixed-blood Cherokee woman-- and her daughter, Reney, as they move from Eastern Oklahoma's Indian Country in the hopes of starting a new, more stable life in Texas amid the oil bust of the 1980s. However, life in Texas isn't easy, and Reney feels unmoored from her family in Indian Country. Against the vivid backdrop of the Red River, we see their struggle to survive in a world--of unreliable men and near-Biblical natural forces, like wildfires and tornados--intent on stripping away their connections to one another and their very ideas of home.
In lush and empathic prose, Kelli Jo Ford depicts what this family of proud, stubborn, Cherokee women sacrifice for those they love, amid larger forces of history, religion, class, and culture. This is a big-hearted and ambitious novel of the powerful bonds between mothers and daughters by an exquisite and rare new talent.