Summary and book reviews of Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe

Barbed Wire Heart

A Thriller

by Tess Sharpe

Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe X
Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2019, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Tomp
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About this Book

Book Summary

From a powerful new voice in suspense fiction comes the unforgettable story of a young woman facing the most difficult choice of her life: family loyalty, or freedom.

Set in an evocative rural landscape à la Hillbilly Elegy and with sharp insight reminiscent of Daniel Woodrell (Winter's Bone), Wiley Cash (A Land More Kind than Home), Karen Dionne (The Marsh King's Daughter) or Lisa Wingate (Before We Were Yours), Tess Sharpe's debut Barbed Wire Heart is a breathtaking "ballad of survival sung by a voice you'll never forget" (David Joy).

Never cut the drugs--leave them pure.
Guns are meant to be shot--keep them loaded.
Family is everything - betray them and die.

Harley McKenna is the only child of North County's biggest criminal. Duke McKenna's run more guns, cooked more meth, and killed more men than anyone around. Harley's been working for him since she was sixteen - collecting debts, sweet-talking her way out of trouble, and dreading the day he'd deem her ready to rule the rural drug empire he's built.

Her time's run out. The Springfields, her family's biggest rivals, are moving in. Years ago, they were responsible for her mother's death, and now they're coming for Duke's only weak spot: his daughter.

With a bloody turf war threatening to consume North County, Harley is forced to confront the truth: that her father's violent world will destroy her. Duke's raised her to be deadly - he never counted on her being disloyal. But if Harley wants to survive and protect the people she loves, she's got to take out Duke's operation and the Springfields.

Blowing up meth labs is dangerous business, and getting caught will be the end of her, but Harley has one advantage: She is her father's daughter. And McKennas always win.

A remarkable novel with a deep emotional core, Barbed Wire Heart seamlessly blends page-turning suspense with a multilayered and unflinching portrayal of a poor, rural community where family is everything.

Part One
The Trailer in the Woods

One

I'm eight years old the first time I watch my daddy kill a man.

I'm not supposed to see. But those first few weeks after Momma died, whenever Uncle Jake isn't around, I'm just running wild.

I spend a lot of time in the woods, playing up in the deer blinds or seeing how high I can get in the trees on my own steam. Sometimes I cry over missing Momma. Sometimes I can't help it.

I try not to do it around Daddy, though.

I like the woods. They're loud and quiet at the same time, the soundtrack and lullaby of my life for as long as I can remember. When I climb the big oaks, pulling myself up with all my might, reaching and jumping and swinging my body along branch and bark like a squirrel, I have to pay attention or I might slip and fall. When I climb, I don't have to think about Momma being gone. Or about how all Daddy does now is storm around in a whiskey cloud, cleaning his guns and muttering about ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In the opening scene, we see Duke kill Ben Springfield in revenge for what happened to Jeannie. Do you think Duke's actions are justified? After all, the Springfields knew what they were risking by attacking Duke's family. Or is killing wrong, no matter the circumstances? Does the fact that Ben has two young children change your answer?
  2. How does what Harley witnesses affect her? How long do you think children should be sheltered, and what do you think is an appropriate age to begin teaching a child about some of the horrors that exist in the world?
  3. Is there ever any justification for killing someone? Should Harley be punished for Dan's death?
  4. The McKennas love "hard and fast and only once." Do you think this is a realistic...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This gritty, intensely feminist tale, is the antithesis to the popular Breaking Bad television series. Harley was born into this life and yet she struggles with the choices she's made. The author, Tess Sharpe, has written for young adults, and though the content of this story puts it firmly in adult territory, Harley is a character with a young adult sensibility. She is good and honorable to an extreme that challenges credulity and is far more hopeful and idealistic than most people with her experiences would be. This ensures that she is easy to root for, even when she starts crossing new lines...continued

Full Review (626 words).

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(Reviewed by Sarah Tomp).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This is a deeply affecting story about the complex family dynamics of growing up in the midst of a drug-trade blood feud.

Booklist
Starred Review. A pulsepounding thriller...masterfully written and constructed....With her powerful debut, Sharpe is definitely a name to watch.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A major new talent ... promises to be one of the best books of 2018

Author Blurb Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Find Her
Read this book! From the opening scene to the adrenaline-fueled finale, this is the rare thriller that packs an emotional punch as compelling as the deadly drug war that must be won at any cost.

Author Blurb David Baldacci, #1 New York Times bestselling author of End Game
A terrific novel of suspense, heartbreak, morality and family. Harley McKenna is a remarkable character. The pages will turn themselves and stay with you for a long time.

Author Blurb David Joy, bestselling author of Where All Light Tends To Go
Barbed Wire Heart is balanced on a knife-point, a novel teetering between hope and fate, loyalty and betrayal. With a story of family and a narrator wrought hard as iron, Tess Sharpe has written a ballad of survival sung by a voice you'll never forget.

Author Blurb Beth Lewis, author of The Wolf Road
Harley McKenna is fierce and unforgettable, a protagonist who takes 'strong female character' to a new level. With shades of Winter's Bone and True Grit, the writing is pin-sharp, with an engaging, masterfully sustained voice, and an utterly captivating story. Tess Sharpe is a writer to watch.

Author Blurb Leah Weiss, bestselling author of If The Creek Don't Rise
I love Tess Sharpe's clean-boned writing and tension that makes my heart gallop. Add the underdog fighting against heroic odds, and a universal cause that hits home, and I'm hooked. I am a fan!

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

A Different California: The State of Jefferson

Barbed Wire Heart is set in the wilderness forest of northern California. In a state widely known for its big money areas of Southern California and the Silicon Valley Bay Area, as well as its rich farmland in the center, the northern region—from Sacramento to the Oregon border—is starkly different in geography, economics, and politics. The community portrayed in Tess Sharpe's story feels quite a bit like southern Appalachia.

Mount Shasta, towering over the summit of Lassen Peak In contrast to large metropolises in the rest of the state such as Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, northern California counties are made up of much smaller cities. The state capital Sacramento, by far the largest city in the area, is ranked only sixth in population for the state. About 90 ...

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