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Walking Through Shadows: A Novel

Walking Through Shadows: A Novel

5.0 3
by Bev Marshall

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When Lloyd Cotton hears that Sheila Barnes is consistently beaten by her daddy, he offers her a room and a job cleaning up around his dairy farm. Despite physical deformity, poverty, and years of abuse, Sheila manages to see the silver lining in every cloud–and her bright spirit touches everyone in the Cotton family, including young Annette who finds an


When Lloyd Cotton hears that Sheila Barnes is consistently beaten by her daddy, he offers her a room and a job cleaning up around his dairy farm. Despite physical deformity, poverty, and years of abuse, Sheila manages to see the silver lining in every cloud–and her bright spirit touches everyone in the Cotton family, including young Annette who finds an enchanting Best Friend. Stoney Barnes, the handsome boy who milks the cows, is especially taken with Sheila. And when they marry, it seems that God has finally given her the good graces she deserves.

But in a cruel twist of fate, Sheila’s body is found in the cornfields. Soon the little town of Zebulon, Mississippi, is awash in scandal. Who would want the innocent young woman dead? Her alcoholic father, her opinionated husband, or perhaps the faithfully married Lloyd Cotton, about whom unsavory rumors swirl?

Surprising secrets will crack open a rural community, and more than one family will suffer in the telling.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“So mesmerizing, so intriguing, and so beautiful that I was happily out of breath by the time I finished it. Unforgettable.”
–Silas House, author of The Coal Tattoo

“This is a moving and beautifully written story that has the same authentic feel for a small southern town as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Olive Ann Burns’s Cold Sassy Tree.”
–Library Journal

“Marshall’s suspense-filled novel grabs you from the first paragraph. The voice is authentic and compelling, and the descriptive details are unusually vivid. You will have difficulty putting this one down.”
–Cassandra King, author of The Same Sweet Girls

“Magnificently crafted with powerful characters that tug at the heart and create a spiral of emotions.”

Publishers Weekly
The arrival of a battered girl disrupts life on a Mississippi dairy farm during WWII in Marshall's debut, an effective if somewhat overwritten story of a lurid smalltown crime. Sheila Carruth is the young girl who is rescued from her abusive father when Lloyd Cotton offers her a place to live and hires her to clean up after his cows. The skinny, humpbacked girl quickly masters the work and wins over Cotton; his wife, Rowena; and their prepubescent daughter, Annette, with her sunny disposition. Romance follows when she attracts the attention of a farmhand named Stoney Barnes. Their unlikely love affair leads to a wedding and a difficult pregnancy, but real trouble surfaces when Stoney starts beating Sheila, and Stoney's brutal father and brother begin paying the couple threatening visits. The combustible mix of personalities finally explodes, and Sheila is found strangled to death in Cotton's cornfield, at which point local reporter Leland Graves steps in to narrate Stoney's trial. Marshall delivers fine character studies in her well-drawn portraits of Stoney, Sheila, Cotton and his family, and the tension is heightened by the strictures of mid-century morality. But the murder is described by so many different narrators that the story runs out of steam by the time Marshall finally gets to Stoney's version. Nevertheless, this is a solid debut. Agent, Lisa Bankoff. (Apr. 1) Forecast: If properly marketed in the South, this novel could rack up strong regional sales, though it faces competition from a bevy of similar titles. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Teens who think "Greek tragedy" in Zebulon, MS, in 1941, as they read a reporter's words about the discovery of a corpse will have a foreshadowing of where this novel is going. Sheila Barnes arrives at the Cottons' dairy farm to take on a job as bottle washer and barn cleaner to escape her father. Annette, the Cottons' 11-year-old daughter, immediately sizes her up as best-friend material. Sheila is plain and uneducated, and has a hump on her back. She has spent the whole of her life being abused by her father, and yet she is full of love, common sense, and compassion. When she marries handsome Stoney Barnes, a fellow worker in the Cotton Dairy, readers hope her travails are over. That is not to be, however, as the themes of jealousy, rage, violence, and victimization play out their sorry stories in her life. The story of the 17-year-old's murder, and its eventual resolution, is told in the first person by a succession of characters who knew her and whose lives she touched. When readers eventually learn who the killer is, the final act of this tragedy is in place. This is a moving and beautifully written story that has the same authentic feel for a small southern town as Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (Lippincott, 1961) and Olive Ann Burns's Cold Sassy Tree (Ticknor & Fields, 1984).-Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Newcomer Marshall attempts to pull heartstrings while creating suspense in this murder mystery set in rural 1941 Mississippi. Since Lloyd Cotton's wife Rowena convinced him to hire Sheila Barnes two years earlier to save the girl from an abusive father, Sheila has proven a hard worker on Lloyd's dairy farm. Despite being uneducated and, according to Rowena, slow (although the only evidence is unquenchable optimism despite continual mistreatment), she offers spiritual wisdom the supposedly intelligent Cottons take seriously. Waiflike and mildly deformed, she also exudes an animal magnetism that affects every male she encounters. One morning 17-year-old Sheila turns up missing, When her battered, pregnant body is found in a nearby field, the police line up their suspects: Sheila's demented father, her handsome but dimwitted husband Stoney, and Lloyd himself. Marshall approaches and re-approaches Sheila's story, Rashomon-style, through five narrators. Lloyd's 11-year-old daughter Amanda, who considers Sheila her best friend, recounts Sheila's life at the dairy with an innocence undercut by confused guilt over her own attraction to Stoney and her pubescent need for independence from her doting parents. Genteel Rowena's version is colored by her difficult, unexpected pregnancy and long-repressed anger over Lloyd's infidelity years before. When the old affair becomes a public scandal, suspicion lands on Lloyd and rocks his marriage. In his narration, Lloyd acknowledges his inappropriate, unspoken attraction to Sheila and his powerlessness in the face of the scandal. We also hear from Stoney, whose passion for Sheila is both childlike and violent, and from a newspaper reporter who, whileunraveling the case, finds himself attracted to the wife of Stoney's older, handsomer, and more vicious brother. Sheila remains a victim cliché despite (or because of) Marshall's attempt to make her a symbol of desecrated innocence. No one will be shocked to learn who impregnated or killed her. Predictable southern gothic, but the modulated scrutiny of the Cotton marriage is memorable.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.21(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.69(d)

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Walking Through Shadows 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, to was hard to put down. It is well written and made you feel like you were in the South during the 40s with Annette and the others.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Walking Through Shadows tells the story of Sheila Barnes, a very unique seventeen-year-old girl who has a profound effect on the lives of the people around her. The novel is set in a quiet little town in Mississippi in 1941. Sheila, who has suffered from brutal abuse from her father, is invited to move to Lloyd Cotton¿s dairy farm to escape her horrible situation and work for him. Everyone who comes into contact with Sheila grows to adore her and the town is astounded when Sheila is found dead in the cornfields. All the characters are suddenly forced to deal with perplexing circumstances. But those who knew Sheila well and grieved the most would come to find that they have learned many lessons from her that would help them to deal with the tragedy of her death. Bev Marshall created an enthralling world that I was eager to visit each time I opened her book and sad to leave when I had to put it down for a moment. She has an extraordinary ability to allow the reader to hear each character¿s voice clearly. All the different accounts given by each character of the events in the story help the reader to see all the sides through many sets of eyes and commiserate with everyone involved. The story is beautifully crafted and undeniably magical. I identify with the young girl, Annette. I can relate with her innocent ways of viewing the world and how they caused her deep torment and confusion in trying to deal with the realities throughout the book. I believe everyone can find a character, if not several, to which he or she can relate. I¿m glad Bev Marshall is sharing her story with the world. I strongly urge everyone to pick up her book and enter this world she has created and be as enchanted as I have been.