From the opening installment (if not from the title itself) it becomes quite clear that this is not going to be a book filled with sweetness and light: the girls and their family members face crushing hardships right from the get-go as they deal with some of life's most cruel slings and arrows long before anyone should have to do so. When they leave their rural Canadian home for life in America (small-town Maine in Idella's case, Boston and other cities for Avis), they confront additional pressures and trials throughout their lives. And yet, somehow, a bond of devotion keeps them together, often laughing (even if sometimes through tears) at their shared struggles and triumphs.
Jensen's created some marvelous characters here, from the two Hillock girls themselves, to their hard-drinking and miserable father Bill, to Idella's indomitable and hilarious mother-in-law. The rocky coasts and gritty small towns Jensen captures here are embodied in her writing style; no flowers, just the brutal reality of life as it is. Sometimes very sad, sometimes incredibly amusing (the penultimate story, "Wake," is both at once), and always written with a graceful, passionate strength, these stories deserved to be published, and they deserve to be widely read.