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The Gods of Green County

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Coralee Harper struggles for justice for her dead brother and her own sanity in Depression-era rural Arkansas. In 1927 in rural Green County, Arkansas, where cotton and poverty reign, young Coralee Harper hopes for a family and a place in her community, but when her brother Buddy is killed by a powerful sheriff, she can't recover from his death or the injustice of his loss. Coralee Harper struggles for justice for her dead brother and her own sanity in Depression-era rural Arkansas. In 1927 in rural Green County, Arkansas, where cotton and poverty reign, young Coralee Harper hopes for a family and a place in her community, but when her brother Buddy is killed by a powerful sheriff, she can't recover from his death or the injustice of his loss. When she begins to spot her dead brother around town, she wonders--is she clairvoyant, mistaken, or is she losing her mind? What Coralee can't fathom is that there are forces at work that threaten her and the very fabric of the town: Leroy Harrison, a newly minted, ambitious lawyer who makes a horrible mistake, landing him a judgeship and a guilty conscience for life; an evangelical preacher and his flock of snake-handling parishioners; the women of the town who, along with Coralee's own mother, make up their own kind of jury for Coralee's behavior; Sheriff Wiley Slocum who rules the entire field, harboring dark secrets of his own; and finally, Coralee's husband Earl, who tries to balance his work at the cotton gin with his fight for family and Coralee's life. When Coralee ends up in a sanity hearing before Judge Leroy Harrison, the judge must decide both Coralee's fate and his own. The chain of events following his decision draws him more deeply into the sheriff's far-reaching sphere of influence, and shows him how power can ruin women and corrupt men, even--and especially--himself.


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Coralee Harper struggles for justice for her dead brother and her own sanity in Depression-era rural Arkansas. In 1927 in rural Green County, Arkansas, where cotton and poverty reign, young Coralee Harper hopes for a family and a place in her community, but when her brother Buddy is killed by a powerful sheriff, she can't recover from his death or the injustice of his loss. Coralee Harper struggles for justice for her dead brother and her own sanity in Depression-era rural Arkansas. In 1927 in rural Green County, Arkansas, where cotton and poverty reign, young Coralee Harper hopes for a family and a place in her community, but when her brother Buddy is killed by a powerful sheriff, she can't recover from his death or the injustice of his loss. When she begins to spot her dead brother around town, she wonders--is she clairvoyant, mistaken, or is she losing her mind? What Coralee can't fathom is that there are forces at work that threaten her and the very fabric of the town: Leroy Harrison, a newly minted, ambitious lawyer who makes a horrible mistake, landing him a judgeship and a guilty conscience for life; an evangelical preacher and his flock of snake-handling parishioners; the women of the town who, along with Coralee's own mother, make up their own kind of jury for Coralee's behavior; Sheriff Wiley Slocum who rules the entire field, harboring dark secrets of his own; and finally, Coralee's husband Earl, who tries to balance his work at the cotton gin with his fight for family and Coralee's life. When Coralee ends up in a sanity hearing before Judge Leroy Harrison, the judge must decide both Coralee's fate and his own. The chain of events following his decision draws him more deeply into the sheriff's far-reaching sphere of influence, and shows him how power can ruin women and corrupt men, even--and especially--himself.

30 review for The Gods of Green County

  1. 4 out of 5

    Fran

    Paradise, Arkansas was a Depression-era town of small minded folk. Cotton fields and poverty reigned supreme. During the drought of 1926, Buddy Harper was shot. His blood, splattered on Main Street, was left for days until a cleansing, heavy rain. Reports indicated that Buddy had stolen cash from the tavern and grabbed a crowbar to defend himself. He was shot dead by Green County Sheriff Wiley Slocum. A prostitute living above the tavern, a potential eyewitness, left town on the day of the shoot Paradise, Arkansas was a Depression-era town of small minded folk. Cotton fields and poverty reigned supreme. During the drought of 1926, Buddy Harper was shot. His blood, splattered on Main Street, was left for days until a cleansing, heavy rain. Reports indicated that Buddy had stolen cash from the tavern and grabbed a crowbar to defend himself. He was shot dead by Green County Sheriff Wiley Slocum. A prostitute living above the tavern, a potential eyewitness, left town on the day of the shooting. Mama Harper was very tough on Buddy and younger sister, Coralee. Buddy managed to soothe Coralee when Mama's callousness was in full swing. Coralee took Buddy's death very hard...but [she] could always see things..." Coralee prayed for Buddy's return. Seeing him walking down Main Street, she followed. "Before I could touch him, he moved...[I] tried to follow him...He slipped away". Leroy Harrison, Esquire was asked by Sheriff Slocum to defend him for shooting Buddy Harper in the line of duty. The plea: self defense. Discrepancies abounded. Why was the wording of 14 witnesses almost identical? Funny, the prostitute, Lorna Lovett, left town the very day she might have provided an eyewitness account. "[Leroy] hoped in a vague way that a positive outcome for the sheriff might mean a positive outcome for Cole." Cole Harrison had applied to open a cotton gin in Paradise, a chance to run his own business. He needed approval by the Paradise Village Council headed by Sheriff Slocum's brother, Virgil. "The very idea that I might not be able to fully investigate Sheriff Slocum's case because I wanted something for myself or my brother...made me feel...like I'd been walking around in my drawers and didn't even know it." Big Earl Wilkins, Coralee's husband reported that "even if Coralee's problems started with Buddy they had turned into something else entirely...I could tell by the look in her eyes she had no idea where the past few hours had gone". Big Earl started taking Little Earl to the gin with him when he worked nights. "Planting season in Arkansas, nothing but possibility-rows of little cotton plants nosing up through the soil...your job is just to see it through to harvest, best you can." Coralee walked through the cotton fields looking for Buddy. It was now twenty years since Buddy died. Sheriff Slocum asked Judge Leroy Harrison to oversee a sanity hearing for Coralee Wilkins. "I couldn't help wondering if the justice I might have stolen from that boy's family was about to be visited upon me...". "The Gods of Green County" by Mary Elizabeth Pope is a riveting, unputdownable novel of Southern Gothic fiction. The residents of rural Paradise had many entanglements. People could be unscrupulous. The evangelical preacher believed one could prove faith by the laying of snakes to cast out demons. Thank you, I'll pass! Caught between a rock and a hard place, a decision made might have far reaching consequences. I highly recommend this excellent read! Thank you Blair Publishing via Edelweiss for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Best book I've read this year, by a mile. And to think I almost turned down the review copy because it was pitched as historical fiction and a murder mystery... which are two of the most effective ways to ensure I say nope, not for me, that's a hard pass. But you guys, seriously! This book was so unexpectedly everything I absolutely love about small press fiction! It's set in rural Arkansas in the 20's and revolves around a young man named Buddy who was shot to death by the town's sheriff and Co Best book I've read this year, by a mile. And to think I almost turned down the review copy because it was pitched as historical fiction and a murder mystery... which are two of the most effective ways to ensure I say nope, not for me, that's a hard pass. But you guys, seriously! This book was so unexpectedly everything I absolutely love about small press fiction! It's set in rural Arkansas in the 20's and revolves around a young man named Buddy who was shot to death by the town's sheriff and Coralee, Buddy's sister, who is deeply and emotionally rocked by the loss. Told in the alternating viewpoints of Coralee, her husband Earl, and Leroy the laywer, we quickly come to realize that there's more to the story than what was originally told, and it appears the town itself is hiding a whole lot of dark secrets. It's ridiculous how good this book is! Do yourself a favor and pick it up. Don't read the jacket copy. Just trust me. You're going to love it. And uhm, hello. That COVER?!?!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Penny Zang

    It is not enough to say I simply enjoyed The Gods of Green County by Mary Elizabeth Pope. This book surprised me in so many ways. Rarely is a book driven by character and plot, as well as setting and voice, all at once. What struck me most was how each character, even the minor characters, were handled with such care and empathy, such attention to detail. I have no doubt that I will keep thinking about these characters for a long time. The use of multiple perspectives feels especially natural, w It is not enough to say I simply enjoyed The Gods of Green County by Mary Elizabeth Pope. This book surprised me in so many ways. Rarely is a book driven by character and plot, as well as setting and voice, all at once. What struck me most was how each character, even the minor characters, were handled with such care and empathy, such attention to detail. I have no doubt that I will keep thinking about these characters for a long time. The use of multiple perspectives feels especially natural, which is a testament to the outstanding writing here, both generous and subtle at the same time. The true joy of The Gods of Green County is the way I was just as surprised as the characters were by each twist in the story. The grief and joy of families and friendships echoes until the very last word.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    This book has many layers. Superficially, it does not at first seen like much, but as you read more closely you begin to see those different layers. What does it mean to be different? Do we see how experiences can change the people we are and how we lead our lives? Do we consider how our actions which might seem justified and bring us some peace can have an adverse effect on others, which we never considered? What do family and community mean? Although this book has fewer than 300 pages, those p This book has many layers. Superficially, it does not at first seen like much, but as you read more closely you begin to see those different layers. What does it mean to be different? Do we see how experiences can change the people we are and how we lead our lives? Do we consider how our actions which might seem justified and bring us some peace can have an adverse effect on others, which we never considered? What do family and community mean? Although this book has fewer than 300 pages, those pages are filled with life lessons and the story stays with you long after you read the last page.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steve Holbert

    Pope perfectly captures the south’s conflicting warmth and violence. Through masterful POV shifts and plotting, she unravels a mystery with both beach book ease and Flannery O’Connor edge.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jill Brennan

    No matter where you are, by the time you finish the first page of The Gods of Green County, you’re in a different time and place and, even if you’ve never been to Arkansas or met a local, you feel right at home. Mary Elizabeth Pope’s writing is so wonderfully vivid, I could see the entire story unfolding. I could taste the Big Earl’s sweet tea. I could feel the hot sun on Coralee, as she walked home from church. I could hear Mabel’s cries of despair. The emotions of these characters umped off th No matter where you are, by the time you finish the first page of The Gods of Green County, you’re in a different time and place and, even if you’ve never been to Arkansas or met a local, you feel right at home. Mary Elizabeth Pope’s writing is so wonderfully vivid, I could see the entire story unfolding. I could taste the Big Earl’s sweet tea. I could feel the hot sun on Coralee, as she walked home from church. I could hear Mabel’s cries of despair. The emotions of these characters umped off the page and stayed with me long after I closed the book. One a technical level, using multiple narrators is a smart choice and is especially appropriate for this story because an investigation in world depend on several accounts. The characters are fleshed out, real people, all driven by personal motivations. These are real people you wish you could sit down and have a glass of tea with. Paradise, Arkansas is ruled by Sheriff Wiley Slocum and haunted by the murder of Coralee Harper’s brother, Buddy. When she starts seeing her brother around town, Coralee believes it’s God bringing him back to her, but her faith makes her an easy target – both for a local preacher who sees her as easy way to put money in his pocket and her family who fears she’s gone crazy. After she returns home from a rough stint in an asylum, Coralee develops a new relationship God and the judge, who helped commit her and allowed her brother’s killer to go free. Coralee experiences real tragedy and hardship but sustain her self-reliance and strength, and her faith is inspiring. Judge Leroy Harrison spends his career doing what he thinks is the right thing for the people of Green County. His desire to be an honest man and do right by his family is something we can all relate to, regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, or faith. Once he’s able to understand the error of his ways, his dedication to righting some of his past wrongs is admirable. But he walks a fine line between dedication and obsession, and he reminds us that patience is crucial, especially in a chaotic world. Big Earl is Coralee’s husband and father of their son Little Earl and his determination to providing for his family is respectable. When facing adversity, he re-centers himself by thinking about what’s best for his family. His ability to be gentle with his wife and strong with Brother Jeremiah teaches us that kindness is not weakness. At its core, this is a story about people, and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s always a delight to come across a book where the characters feel so familiar. It’s a story about loss, regret, injustice, and questioning our faith. But it’s also a story about joy, love, and finding family in the most unexpected people. I wish I could read it again for the for first time.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mary Lins

    “The Gods of Green County”, by Mary Elizabeth Pope, intrigued me when I heard about it on “Speed Dating” by Book Group, thank you Blair Publishing for sending me an ARC of this wonderful character-driven mystery novel! It’s 1926 in rural Arkansas and Coralee Harper has return to her mother’s house in shame after leaving her husband. Coralee has “visions” of events that often come true, but she didn’t see that her husband was trouble, or that her brother Buddy would be shot dead by the sheriff, Wi “The Gods of Green County”, by Mary Elizabeth Pope, intrigued me when I heard about it on “Speed Dating” by Book Group, thank you Blair Publishing for sending me an ARC of this wonderful character-driven mystery novel! It’s 1926 in rural Arkansas and Coralee Harper has return to her mother’s house in shame after leaving her husband. Coralee has “visions” of events that often come true, but she didn’t see that her husband was trouble, or that her brother Buddy would be shot dead by the sheriff, Wiley Slocum, and she doesn’t know an important secret about Buddy. Leroy Harrison is a young lawyer whom Sheriff Slocum asks to defend him, and Leroy does, even though he has serious misgivings about the evidence used to exonerate the sheriff. By 1945, Big Earl Wilkins, Coralee’s second husband, begins to suspect that “something is wrong” with Coralee. This straightforward novel unfolds in first-person narratives from these three fascinating characters. “The Gods of Green County” is as much a character study of these three, and an historical perspective of small towns in the 1920 to the 1940s, as it is a murder mystery. Provocative subjects such as strict gender roles, treatment (or mistreatment) for mental illness, the power of small town sheriffs, and “snake handling” churches, all factor in this compelling narrative. There were a couple of plot points that were a bit too convenient, but not distracting enough to significantly mar this satisfying story. Pope’s writing is captivating and perfectly-paced to take the reader into the past to uncover dark secrets and reveal long buried truths.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    I have a book hangover and I am crying. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful story that is both a mystery and a story about injustice and the nature of forgiveness. The author has a remarkable ear for dialogue. My grandparents grew up in rural Arkansas around the time of the main setting of the novel, and I frequently felt like I was surrounded by the ghosts of my extended family in the cadence of the characters' conversations. (I very much look forward to being able to expe I have a book hangover and I am crying. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful story that is both a mystery and a story about injustice and the nature of forgiveness. The author has a remarkable ear for dialogue. My grandparents grew up in rural Arkansas around the time of the main setting of the novel, and I frequently felt like I was surrounded by the ghosts of my extended family in the cadence of the characters' conversations. (I very much look forward to being able to experience this book again as an audiobook, because it will be a delight in the hands of a talented narrator.) If you loved Where the Crawdads Sing, but felt that book was bogged down a bit by descriptions of the marsh, you will love this book. It captures the same sort of atmospheric narrative with leaner prose. I absolutely loved this book. (I received a free Advanced Reader's Copy of this book from the publisher, and it's worth noting that this is the first book I've read ON PAPER in almost 4 years, because I am a dedicated Kindle reader (due to my eyestrain from reading tiny legal print all day). This story was so compelling it was worth the eye strain.)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jeana M

    Mysteries tend to be formulaic, with stock characters and a plot wholly driven by the question of whodunit. The Gods of Green County, by Mary Elizabeth Pope, is anything but. Set in post-Depression era Arkansas, the book is so much more than mystery. There’s murder, yes, but also a mute orphaned boy, a woman deemed incompetent and sent to the state psychiatric ward, a child adopted by his aunt and uncle and raised as their own, a corrupt sheriff, and a snake-handling preacher. To tell these inte Mysteries tend to be formulaic, with stock characters and a plot wholly driven by the question of whodunit. The Gods of Green County, by Mary Elizabeth Pope, is anything but. Set in post-Depression era Arkansas, the book is so much more than mystery. There’s murder, yes, but also a mute orphaned boy, a woman deemed incompetent and sent to the state psychiatric ward, a child adopted by his aunt and uncle and raised as their own, a corrupt sheriff, and a snake-handling preacher. To tell these interlocking stories, Pope offers three distinct alternating narrative voices, thus providing a compelling narrative style that drives the plot forward. She wields a sure hand with characterization as she shifts the point of view to show us motherless children, widowed fathers, and women fighting for their sanity. Yet Pope digs even deeper, delving into issues of gender, class, and mental illness with a deftness surprising for a first novel. The plot reels you in, but the clear and elegant writing leaves you wanting more. I couldn’t put it down!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Nelson

    Received through FirstReads... I was hoping to like this, but it was so much more than I expected. The only reason I didn't read this in one sitting is because I'm a crazy sports fan. Enthralling from the first page. Right of the bat I have to warn you that this is hands down one of the most depressing novels I've ever read. The sense of smothering, of muted colors, dust and isolation, the utter hopelessness and loneliness come off the page so well it's hard to read. You're almost glad to put it Received through FirstReads... I was hoping to like this, but it was so much more than I expected. The only reason I didn't read this in one sitting is because I'm a crazy sports fan. Enthralling from the first page. Right of the bat I have to warn you that this is hands down one of the most depressing novels I've ever read. The sense of smothering, of muted colors, dust and isolation, the utter hopelessness and loneliness come off the page so well it's hard to read. You're almost glad to put it down and remember that, no, you don't live there. Very bleak. Very worth reading.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rob Russell

    The Gods of Green County is an amazing story told through three different narrators about life - and a series of events - that happen in the Arkansas Delta in the 1920s. Part historical fiction, but also a little country noir in the vein of Daniel Woodrell, the book reflects on the challenges of life in a small town and issues class, gender, mental health, and power while presenting a compelling narrative that I couldn’t put down. Definitely pick this one up for an engaging, enjoyable read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bailey Bohn

    I love a book set in the south. A book pre-1980 is even better. There really just isn't a better setting and the way it can shape characters. Similar books: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, Betty, Where the Crawdads Sing I love a book set in the south. A book pre-1980 is even better. There really just isn't a better setting and the way it can shape characters. Similar books: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, Betty, Where the Crawdads Sing

  13. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Loved this story. It was written so "matter of fact". I'll be thinking of all the citizens of Green County for a while-my sign of a good read. Loved this story. It was written so "matter of fact". I'll be thinking of all the citizens of Green County for a while-my sign of a good read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Yvette

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kim Kroll

  16. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  17. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Zavala

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mirari Elcoro

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leah Kendall

  20. 5 out of 5

    Berkley McDaniel

  21. 4 out of 5

    Greta

  22. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Johnson

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cindy O'Callaghan

  25. 5 out of 5

    Claire Statler

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jenna Marino

  28. 4 out of 5

    Barb Traylor

  29. 4 out of 5

    Janet

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

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