In the midst of a heaven-rattling summer storm a young stranger blows into a small prairie town. On the run after taking her latest boyfriend’s truck, with a pocketful of stolen money and a heart full of pain, seventeen-year-old Noreen Stall seems to invite trouble. And trouble comes soon enough as Noreen’s new mistakes trigger calamities that shake the lives of the residents of Pembina Lake: Lynda Bradley, a divorced mother and owner of a failing café who’s given up on life and love; Dolores Harper, the village elder who, in spite of her signature sweatshirt that says MEDDLING FOR JESUS, has lost her enthusiasm for helping others; and Del Armstrong, a middle-aged bachelor farmer who is still paying for the tragic events of his own seventeenth summer.
Set against the vast skies of a prairie landscape, with a rich cast of unforgettable characters and an unlikely heroine as endearing as she is tough, this affecting novel reminds readers that it’s never too late for forgiveness – and that sometimes the most unlikely messenger can deliver a small miracle.
After the epic saga that was The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and amidst the dystopian sci-fi heavy-hitter Living Hell, I needed something else. Nothing with high kingdoms or political intrigue, nothing with fatal romances that destroys both parties, nothing with overwhelming tech-speak, and--I can not stress this enough--nothing in an unfamiliar enviroment. I needed something familiar, but not. And lucky for me, True Confessions was waiting patiently on my doorstep when I got home.
So there's Noreen--self proclaimed heartless girl--showing up on one stormy night in a small-town diner, owned by a kindly yet tough-lovin' kind of lady named Lynda. Against her better judgment, she takes Noreen in and listens to her story; mildly-abused at a young age, less-then-mildly neglected, seventeen year old Noreen took a boy she met at a bus station and moved in with him, abandoning her well-meaning but overbearing sister for good. But when things get too serious, when she realizes she can't handle Wesley's kindness, she runs off with his money, his truck and possibly his baby into Lynda's cafe. The people of Manitoba take her in, warm fuzziness ensues.
The thing ya'll should know--this is a winter book. A winter book. Not summer, winter. If I ever find any of you reading this with your bare feet up and a sunburn slowly festering on your exposed areas, I will be forced to take action. You wanna know why? I'll tell you.
You don't fuck with a Feel Good Story. Just don't do it. You'll end up looking like a douche and no one likes that guy. No one. And this, friends, is a Feel Good Story.
We get a good look at the townsfolk even before Noreen does, thanks to the alternating third person points of view. The aforementoned Lynda, domestic violence survivor, single mother and owner of the failing cafe. There's Dolores, momma-to-everybody and proud displayer of a "Meddling for Jesus" sweatshirt. There's Del, pointlessly fixing up a cottager no one cares about (which he eventually loans to Noreen). Seth, Lynda's infant son, who's kind of awesome. And, while all these characters are great, they all have their problems. Ones in which Noreen blames herself for (quite unreasonably, if you ask me). An interesting use of the cliche "I'm the center of the universe" schtick commonly used in teen-angst-stories.
Noreen, the titular heartless girl, is, indeed, pretty heartless. At least at first. And at second. And at third. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that she gets her head out of her ass and, by fourth, she slowly starts to break out of a shell and strip defenses that she made no secret of creating. Through flashbacks starting from the minute we enter her head, we see her long and illustrious history with shitty people; her mother, her stepfather, her well-meaning stepsister, her d-bag boyfriends who all find something wrong with her. She's learned not to care, not to give herself away, to save herself the trouble. Ya'll know where this goes.
I don't really think this about Noreen, despite what the title would tell you. I think its more about the town as a whole and how all our little problems can seem like the biggest disasters in human history. And don't worry all you John Hughes lovers, it is about growing up.
Rating: 8 out of 10--lovely fireplace read.