Zoey’s World: Growing Up in Johnson Hollow

Tambra L. Eifert

Publisher: iUniverse Pages: 248 Price: (paperback) $15.00 ISBN: 9781532063268 Reviewed: July, 2019 Author Website: Visit »

Laced with the charms of a bygone era, Tambra L. Eifert’s heartwarming novel Zoey’s World weaves mystery and intrigue around curious happenings while honoring family, friendship and community spirit.

This is a coming-of-age story set in 1940s Missouri and peppered with supernatural elements. Protagonist Zoey learns and grows through a series of adventures and encounters. She discovers an abandoned farmhouse, which evolves into a neighborhood fix-up project for a struggling veteran; explores an underground cave system thought to harbor the hidden loot of a historic outlaw; and learns valuable lessons about love and loss from her time spent with a Cherokee elder. The story includes suspenseful twists, such as noises in the attic, voodoo dolls nailed to a property fence, and ghostly encounters at Halloween that shed light on a romance and murder from decades past.

Zoey shines as a kindhearted central character. She’s surrounded by a local community of diverse and fully fleshed-out individuals. Shared knowledge, communication and conversations between characters make for a peaceful dynamic.

While Eifert sets this tale against a backdrop of down-home Americana — complete with tractor pulls, berry-picking excursions, and the birth of a calf named Honeybun — the supernatural elements (glowing orbs, mutilated livestock, UFO ponderings and sightings of Sasquatch-like “Guardians of the Woods”) are cleverly woven into the community’s concerns. These elements could seem over the top but are well placed and provide added depth to a storyline that might otherwise be limited to nostalgic appeal.

One drawback is that the author begins each chapter with an italicized reflective commentary on the coming action. These short items interrupt the book’s flow and are unnecessary, as the action speaks for itself.

Nonetheless, in this realm of featherbeds, woodburning stoves, and nights of stargazing, Eifert paints a beautiful portrait of people who help one another, just because it’s the right thing to do. In all, Zoey’s World is a touching and colorful coming-of-age tale.

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