Missing the Mark
by John W. Ridley
LifeRich Publishing

"…solving the mystery of Jerry’s life had again become all-encompassing."

A powerful prologue promises a main character who will succeed and retain her high character despite shortcomings, mistreatment, and danger. Ridley successfully delivers Margaret Ann, part Cherokee and Yakima but fully Appalachian, who treats “everyone with respect and dignity, even when wronged by others.”

Deep in the isolated mountains of northern Georgia during the late Sixties, Margaret Ann’s poor but loving family of thirteen concentrates on survival. Margaret Ann yearns for more and gets it via an unexpected scholarship to a local college. She works single-mindedly toward her nursing degree, but then meets Jerry. Margaret Ann’s poverty and innate need to comfort render her “psychologically drawn to him due to his unhappy and needy mien.” Margaret Ann weds Jerry, joins the military reserves, and plunges down a seventeen-year-long marital rabbit hole. Jerry represents all that is bad about Appalachia: poverty, crime, cruelty, family feuds, questionable ancestry, and shanty-shack living. Despite two children with Jerry and a full-time nursing career, Margaret Ann manages to maintain her decency and, for reasons unfathomable, her marriage.

Ridley skillfully contrasts Margaret Ann's love of nature, the seasons, and the elements with Jerry's ugliness. Ridley's writing flows like a river through sunsets and sunrises, bringing a strong sense of place that seems to lull Margaret Ann into willing complacency and a tedious life. More dialog between characters might speed her awakening. But the plot quickens when her children mature, freeing her to solve the mystery of Jerry, involving murder, drugs, fraud, and the U.S. Government. Margaret Ann is memorable character who overcomes poverty, mistreatment, marital misery, and her own naivete in a complicated Appalachian mystery that blends the beauty of the mountains with the ugliness of drugs, murder, and misuse of power. A surprise ending channels events toward a possible continuation of the adventures of Margaret Ann.

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