FeaturedLiterary Fiction

The Red Dirt Hymnbook

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Roxie Faulkner Kirk weaves a compelling, page-turning narrative centered on a sharp, resourceful heroine trying to escape an abusive family.

I gave myself enough time to read The Red Dirt Hymnbook over a few days, but I finished it in one night. Roxie Faulkner Kirk weaves a compelling, page-turning narrative centered on a sharp, resourceful heroine—and so I kept going, wanting to know whether Ruby Fae would successfully be able to escape the situation in which she was currently trapped.


With no money, no method of transportation, and limited ability to contact the outside world, Ruby has to figure out how to get herself and her daughter away from the traveling ministry family that once promised freedom before revealing itself to be manipulative, abusive, and controlling. Kirk does a masterful job of escalating the tension, creating several situations in which you are sure Ruby and her daughter have finally been able to leave the Reverend Jasper and his family behind—only to turn the page and find that the Old Rev has been one step ahead of Ruby all this time.


Kirk also does excellent work in humanizing each character, even the ones who might otherwise be portrayed as one-sided monsters. Through Ruby's eyes, we see each member of the ministry as a person trying their hardest to embody the tenets of their faith, while removing any obstacle that might threaten the faith or the family. We understand why Ruby married the Old Rev's son, why she stayed with the ministry for as long as she did, and why she now has to leave.


Perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Emma Donoghue.

Reviewed by

Writer, editor, and teacher. I review one book a week at NicoleDieker.com as part of my daily posts on the art and the finances of a creative career. Am interested in books on writing and publishing, literary fiction, and SF&F.

Baxter County, Arkansas 1979

About the author

I live in a hundred-year-old farmhouse with my husband and a variety of kids, cats, dogs and bees. One of my earliest memories is of my father marching me into the library saying, "Anything you could ever need to know, Mr. Thorne here can find you a book about it." I've never doubted it since. view profile

Published on June 28, 2019

80000 words

Genre: Literary Fiction

Reviewed by