“The Widows” by Jess Montgomery – Book Review

“Inspired by the true story of Ohio’s first female sheriff, this is a powerful debut about two women’s search for justice as they take on the corruption at the heart of their community.”

A story of two courageous, hard-working, and thoroughly admirable women, this story is set in an Appalachian mining community where a mine called “The Widowmaker” has proven its name on three separate occasions…

“The sisterhood of widows. Such a sorrowful sisterhood Lily has joined.”

Lily Ross – Wife of the Sheriff, Daniel Ross, pregnant and with two young children, she is widowed at the tender age of twenty-six. Approached by the deputy and offered the position of temporary sheriff, Lily accepts. She aims to find out how and why her beloved husband was killed. They have underestimated Lily’s strength and obstinacy.

Marvena Whitcomb – Widow of a miner, mother to two girls, and former lover and lifelong friend of Daniel Ross. The thirty-five year-old Marvena, having suffered many losses due to the dire conditions in the mining industry, is a union organizer. She is also a moonshiner during the lean years of prohibition.

“So many believe women are too sensitive for life’s brutal truths. That’s only, Lily thinks, because they’ve not experienced the brutal truths life gives particularly and uniquely to women.”

The women overcome mistrust to merge together to combat desperate conditions and corrupt men of power. And, most importantly, to find out the hows and whys of Daniel Ross’s murder.

Though I seldom read historical fiction, when I do, I never cease to marvel at all the research that must have been done to make the book possible. It is obvious that Jess Montgomery didn’t stint on her meticulous research. She crafted two fictional woman who became flesh and blood to the reader. Vividly described places and situations expound on the extreme poverty and resilience of the coal mining families in the 1920s. A time when the ‘company’ owned the houses the miners lived in, owned the schools the children attended, employed the only doctor for miles, and owned the store the miners shopped at. It was a time when young boys worked in the mines as early as the age of eleven. Also, it was a time when the Pinkerton Agency was just a band of ‘thugs for hire’.

The women overcome the odds in a time when women had little, if any, socioeconomic power. In addition to the dangerous and downright criminal practices of the mining company, they expose kickbacks, organized criminals, and murder. All the while tending to their children, cooking, cleaning, and more.  These women will remain in my memory for a very long time.

This fiction debut by author Jess Montgomery proves that she has a writing talent to be reckoned with – and should be a firm favorite of all lovers of historical fiction. Highly recommended.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Chapters/Indigo | Google Books

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in order to participate in this TLC Blog Tour.


JESS MONTGOMERY is the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News and Executive Director of the renowned Antioch Writers’ Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Based on early chapters of The Widows, Jess was awarded an Ohio Arts Council individual artist’s grant for literary arts and the John E. Nance Writer-in-Residence at Thurber House in Columbus. She lives in her native state of Ohio.

Connect with Jess Montgomery

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

Check out some other stops on this TLC Blog Tour:

TLC Blog Tours has generously provided me with one copy of “The Widows” to GIVEAWAY! (open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only)

To enter the giveaway you must share this review on Twitter during the month of January 2019.  I will choose a winner via the Random Name Picker web tool and the winner will be announced in my “Hello February” post.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Blog Tour, Book Reviews, Giveaways, Historical fiction, NetGalley, TLC Book Tours and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to “The Widows” by Jess Montgomery – Book Review

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  5. Such a lovely review! Not sure I’d heard of this one, but it reminded me of different bits of other books I’ve read. Going on my TBR!


  6. carhicks says:

    What an amazing review and endorsement. I am hoping to win this book (yes, I actually tweeted), if not, I guess I will have to buy it. Sounds so good.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. avidreaderdiary says:

    Also, found this on #SupportBookBlogs. Thanks for using the hashtag!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. avidreaderdiary says:

    OMG, I’m not a historical fiction fan but your review makes me wanna read this book. It also seems like a LEGIT GIRL POWER book! 😍


  9. Pingback: Jess Montgomery, author of THE WIDOWS, on tour January 2019 | TLC Book Tours

  10. Lisa Munley says:

    Ahhh!! Great review! Thanks so much for being on the tour!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This sounds JUST like one I would love!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great review! Now I know which book to pick up next for my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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