Taking place in the west Texas landscape along the Frio River, much of the action in this chilling novel happens in the real Garner State Park. There Marnie Evans finds solace with the Carpenters, a wild couple of uber-environmentalists. Ranger Rick, as Marnie calls him, is a singing cowboy park ranger. His big-hearted and sensitive wife, Claire, aches for a child to cherish.
Like any other little girl, Marnie just wants her family to love her.
Unfortunately, her family includes a drunken slut, the slut's sinister
abusive boyfriend, a misguided jailbird dad and assorted religious
fanatics. Can you spell "dysfunctional"?
Darden's novel defies pigeon-holing. She considers it a "coming of age" story, but there is no sex involving the main character. An abundance of dread overhangs the plot, a little violence takes place and death definitely plays a part.
Let's just call it "mainstream fiction." featuring luscious descriptions of the settings in which everyone learns a new definition of "family." So, the book could also be labeled suspense or even mystery to some degree. It is unusual to find a mystery without a murder.
Marnie is somewhat unusual, too, for an 11-year-old girl. She is part tomboy who doesn't hesitate to sleep outdoor with creepy critters or crawl under her mother's shack to escape drunken brawls. But the somewhat precocious youngster is also part mystic, finding magic in the jack rabbits and seeing a boot-wearing Texas angel who shows her mysterious signs of the future.
It is her future coming into tenuous question when her father, who has a revolving door relationship with incarceration, comes home from jail. A series of misunderstandings and greedy intentions put Marnie's life at risk. Another's life is lost in one of those rip-roaring Texas summer storms. The tragedy taxes Ranger Rick's soul and his marriage with Claire.