Reviews for Liar's bench

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

The main feature of the tiny town of Peckinpaw, Kentucky, is the Liar's Bench, a popular spot in the town square that, unbeknownst to the residents, was built from the gallows of a slave hung for crimes she did not commit. The legacy of that hanging echoes more than 100 years later when Mudas Muddy Summers sets out to prove that her mother, Ella, did not commit suicide. Muddy and her friend Bobby Marshall uncover Ella's secrets, along with those of Roy McGee, an all-around bad guy with connections to politicians and the Klan. Muddy's growing feelings toward the sweet Bobby, who is African American and Native American, endears neither of them to the people of the town, but Muddy refuses to leave well enough alone. Full of folksy colloquialisms, Muddy and her friends and family talk like they're from a more innocent time than the turbulent 1970s. Although this story has southern small-town charm, a particularly violent climax will turn off sensitive readers. Richardson's first novel includes recipes and discussion questions and may appeal to those who like Rebecca Wells or Jennifer Chiaverini.--Maguire, Susan Copyright 2015 Booklist

Publishers Weekly
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Richardson, author of the memoir The Unbreakable Child, misses the target with this over-the-top debut novel, which details how a girl spends the days shortly after her 17th birthday searching for the truth about her mother's suspicious death. In a small Kentucky town in the early '70s, Mudas "Muddy" Summers is convinced that her long-suffering mother, Ella, didn't take her own life. When Ella's abusive boyfriend, Tommy Whitlock, turns up dead himself, Muddy homes in on villain Roy McGee, whom Muddy caught in an argument with her mom on the day she died. Meanwhile, racial tensions run high as a bigoted older white man, Harper, antagonizes Muddy's mixed-race beau, Bobby Marshall. Though Muddy isn't aware of it, folks seem to know that Bobby is descended from a slave who was hanged from gallows that were later made into the town's titular liar's bench. Richardson's flimsy plot hinges on plenty of convenient coincidences that strain belief. Her characterizations are flat and one-note, with baddies often descending into cartoonish hyperbole. The romance between Muddy and Bobby also falls flat, as Richardson attempts to squeeze a love story into an already disjointed narrative. Despite the book's faults, Richardson manages to put together a chilling view of race relations in the South. Sadly, this isn't enough to sustain this unsuccessful novel. (Apr.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.