(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Cady O’Donnell is The Redheaded Stepchild, the heroine without any grandiose heroic actions. In this disjointed collection of short stories, we follow Cady as she tries on every hat in the this-is-your-life store to see what fits and works best in the adventures she shares with her special head of hair. Each chapter acts as a screaming independent connection between the most formative years of her life, as she meets, lives with, and loses one of the most influential people in her lifetime. Set in a rural community in Minnesota, The Redheaded Stepchild is an archetype of life in small-town America and a testament that the broken family is the new whole family, just as Cady O’Donnell shows how the unwanted stepchild can be a everyday hero.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook from Kelly Hitchcock in exchange for an honest review.]
Sometimes, after reading fantasy and science fiction you lose sight of the fact that normal life makes good fiction as well. The Redheaded Stepchild is just that: a tale about normal life out in rural America, which is also applicable to rural Canada. And as someone who grew up in a very rural area, I can say with absolute certainty that Kelly Hitchcock portrays rural life incredibly well without any embellishments.
Our heroine Catherine, or Cady for short, isn’t a kick-butt action heroine that you find in a lot of sci-fi and fantasy. She’s just an average girl trying to deal with a dysfunctional family situation. Her family’s poor but not starving, her father is divorced and has remarried and she’s going to college to make a better life for herself. No, nothing truly unusual or overly dramatic here. But that doesn’t mean The Redheaded Stepchild isn’t interesting. What it does mean is that you get a slice of normal characters trying to deal with normal life, a true rarity in fiction. It sort of puts things in perspective as we watch Cady grow up through several disjointed short stories. (Of course everything is tied together in the end, but I found it was an interesting way to tell Cady’s story.)
Really, what else is there to say? Cady was a great character with a believable character arc, the plot was not fast-paced but it was interesting and Kelly Hitchcock’s quality of writing is excellent. The Redheaded Stepchild probably isn’t for everyone, but if you’re tired of fantastic stories and want a slice of normal life, this would be a great book for you.
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.