Fifteen-year-old Aggie lives on a Texas sheep farm. Her family are God-fearing folk but, according to her elder sister, Jojo, a subspecies, below human. Momma’s long gone and rarely referred to, except as a whore, but Pop needs an outlet, and he likes to keep it in the family. Jojo has tried to protect her, but there’s not just Pop, there’s their brother Cy although, fortunately, Ash refrains until the day he leaves. One day Aggie gets it into her head to leave also and, without packing a bag or even picking up a bottle of water, she walks.
It takes great skill to conjure up convincing characters living lives on the margins, people who are subjected to extreme violence and abuse. The author navigates a fine line between overloading the reader with horrifics and glossing over the grittiness in denial of the damage wrought by such lives. Scottish actor and playwright, Pauline Lynch pulls this off successfully in her debut novel through the sheer sassiness of Aggie’s voice. As with Hot Milk, I was excited by the voice of Armadillos from the first page, even though part of me didn’t want to know what she had to say. Despite the heap of shit life has thrown at her, Aggie is a feisty character who doesn’t dwell on the negatives. She might lie and cheat and steal, but it’s just because she wants to stay alive. Thanks to Legend Press for introducing me to her, and I hope you’d like to meet her too.
If you’re interested in how a story becomes a novel, Pauline Lynch relates in an afterword that Armadillos started from a writing exercise based around the sentence I am still a long way from home, but I am beginning to believe it will never be far enough. Something to bear in mind if you are participating in Sarah Brentyn’s tweets4blogs or Charli Mills’ Flash fiction challenge as a step towards something much bigger.