Venom and the River: A Novel of Pepin by Marsha Qualey
Several hundred women are about to converge on tiny Pepin, Minnesota, to celebrate the birthday of Ida May Turnbull, the long-dead author of a beloved series of children’s books. When the “Little Girls” gather in Pepin, one woman finds life has changed forever.
Leigh Burton is a disgraced journalist who was stripped of a Pulitzer for fabricating details in a few newspaper stories. In the years since, Leigh has been scratching out a living as a freelancer, and has arrived in Pepin to assist an aged former vice president of the United States with his memoirs. Because no publisher will buy any nonfiction with her fingerprints on it, Leigh has to keep her past under wraps, which becomes a challenge when she’s gently blackmailed by a Pepin local, and Leigh’s sixteen-year-old daughter arrives unexpectedly and threatens to tell everyone Mom’s secret. Making things even more difficult is that Leigh is living in Ida May Turnbull’s long-shuttered childhood home, which puts her in the bulls-eye of the Little Girls’ obsession. It’s a position that jeopardizes her secret, her work, a budding romance, and her fragile relationship with her daughter.