Book: The Virgin of Small Plains

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Book:

The Virgin of Small Plains: A Novel of Suspense

Author: Nancy Pickard
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Publisher: Ballantine Books

Small Plains, Kansas, January 23, 1987: In the midst of a deadly blizzard, eighteen-year-old Rex Shellenberger makes a shocking discovery: the naked, frozen body of a teenage girl. Even dead, she is the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. In the two decades following her death, strange miracles visit those who faithfully tend to her grave.

Seventeen years later, three families and three friends, their worlds inexorably altered in the course of one night, must confront the ever-unfolding consequences. Wonderfully written and utterly absorbing, The Virgin of Small Plains is about the loss of faith, trust, and innocence…and the possibility of redemption.

Small Plains, Kansas, January 23, 1987: In the midst of a deadly blizzard, eighteen-year-old Rex Shellenberger scours his father’s pasture, looking for helpless newborn calves. Then he makes a shocking discovery: the naked, frozen body of a teenage girl, her skin as white as the snow around her. Even dead, she is the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. It is a moment that will forever change his life and the lives of everyone around him. The mysterious dead girl–the “Virgin of Small Plains”–inspires local reverence. In the two decades following her death, strange miracles visit those who faithfully tend to her grave; some even believe that her spirit can cure deadly illnesses. Slowly, word of the legend spreads.

But what really happened in that snow-covered field? Why did young Mitch Newquist disappear the day after the Virgin’s body was found, leaving behind his distraught girlfriend, Abby Reynolds? Why do the town’s three most powerful men–Dr. Quentin Reynolds, former sheriff Nathan Shellenberger, and Judge, Tom Newquist–all seem to be hiding the details of that night?

Seventeen years later, when Mitch suddenly returns to Small Plains, simmering tensions come to a head, ghosts that had long slumbered whisper anew, and the secrets that some wish would stay buried rise again from the grave of the Virgin. Abby–never having resolved her feelings for Mitch–is now determined to uncover exactly what happened so many years ago to tear their lives apart.

Three families and three friends, their worlds inexorably altered in the course of one night, must confront the ever-unfolding consequences in award-winning author Nancy Pickard’s remarkable novel of suspense. Wonderfully written and utterly absorbing, The Virgin of Small Plains is about the loss of faith, trust, and innocence…and the possibility of redemption.

Reviews

Barnes and Noble

After more than a dozen novels, mystery and suspense author—and longtime Kansan—Nancy Pickard finally comes home to the Sunflower State in The Virgin of Small Plains, a hauntingly bittersweet story about the residents of a Kansas town and the grisly secrets some of them have kept buried for 17 years.

During a deadly blizzard in 1987, high school senior Rex Shellenberger and his older brother help their father search snow-covered pastures for newborn calves. What Rex finds instead is a breathtakingly beautiful young woman, completely naked and frozen to death, as if she just curled up and fallen asleep. The body is never identified and is eventually buried in an unmarked grave in the town cemetery. But even after 17 years, rumors still swirl around the girl and the mysterious events of that fateful night. How did she get there? Why did Mitch Newquist, the handsome son of the local judge, suddenly leave town—and Abby, the love of his life—never again to return? A growing number of people believe that visiting the unmarked grave will bring them miracles—but there are those in the small town who know there is nothing inspirational about the legend of the Virgin of Small Plains. In fact, it’s just the opposite…

The melancholic appeal of this unexpectedly touching novel can be found in the multitude of contradictions associated with small-town America. Pickard fittingly describes The Virgin of Small Plains as set in the place “where Truman Capote proved in In Cold Blood that small Midwestern towns can be the most deadly of all, and where Dorothy proved in The Wizard of Oz that there’s no place like home.” Just like real life, this novel is full of joy, desire, heartbreak, tragedy—and, above all else, hope. Paul Goat Allen

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