Title: Weeping Willow
Author: Ruth White
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 256
WARNING: THIS BOOK REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Trigger warning(s): Sexual abuse & assault, Animal Cruelty
Set in rural Virginia in the 1950’s, Weeping Willow tells the story of a teen girl trying pick up the pieces of her life after a traumatic event. Spanned over several years in the life of its protagonist, Tiny, I was surprised by how much time in encompassed. Tiny is an innocent girl who loves music and has a beautiful singing voice. She lives with her mom, stepdad, demanding half-sister, and rowdy stepbrothers. Tiny’s stepdad Vern acts inappropriately towards her and one day when he catches her alone at home in a bathing suit he rapes her.
Tiny and her half-sister Phyllis adopt a next-door neighbor’s abused collie and Vern threatens to kill it if she tells. Tiny goes for years keeping this secret. She makes several close friends and starts dating a boy who doesn’t treat her well. Then Vern molests Phyllis and Tiny knows she must speak up. I guess I should have seen that one coming, but I thought Vern might not mess with her because she was his biological daughter. The setting of this book was very vivid, and I enjoyed reading something that was set in my home state (Harrisonburg was even mentioned at one point near the end, which is right near my neck of the woods.)
At first, I thought Tiny was a little bit of a Mary Sue because right off the bat she was talking about how plain and unattractive she is, blah-blah-blah (as is usually the case, she can’t come up with a single physical trait that actually makes her seem unappealing.) But I don’t know, I warmed up to her. You really get the sense of time passing and her growing and maturing over the course of the book. Even though it’s not very long, you feel like you’ve taken a journey with her. I felt like everything fell into place a little too easily in the end.
She got a huge opportunity with a music school, she met a great guy (as soon as they introduced Cecil at the beginning, I knew he would be ‘the one.’) She inherits a beautiful mountainside home that her grandfather leaves her in his will. It was like an unbelievable number of good things were happening for her all at once. Her mom should have pressed charges against Vern when she kicked him out, I know she wanted to protect her daughters from the gossip of the locals, but he was just going to do it again to somebody else.
I felt like the teacher Tiny had a crush on also should have tried harder to figure out who was writing him the letters and intervene in the abuse. Overall, while not as depressing as Memories of Summer, Weeping Willow deals with some tough social issues, albeit in a non-graphic way. The ending is bittersweet as Tiny’s imaginary friend Willa leaves her forever, which means she’s growing up and learning to process her trauma.