The Widows
Hours after his funeral, a stranger appears at her door. Marvena Whitcomb, a coal miner’s widow, is unaware that Daniel has died, and begs to speak with him about her missing daughter.From miles away but worlds apart, Lily and Marvena’s lives collide as they realize that Daniel was not the man that either of them believed him to be—and that his murder is far more complex than either of them could have imagined.Inspired by the true story of Ohio’s first female sheriff, this is a powerful debut about two women’s search for justice as they take on the corruption at the heart of their community.

The Widows Details

TitleThe Widows
Author
ReleaseJan 8th, 2019
PublisherMinotaur Books
ISBN-139781250184528
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fiction, Thriller, Mystery Thriller

The Widows Review

  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    Revenge keeps the pain of the wound seeping blood into the forever.Lily Ross bends wearily as she sets thing right in the Rossville jail. Strapped with a derringer at her ankle, Lily eyes the prisoner in the cell facing her. The Appalachian foothills in 1925 in this small Ohio town provide a panoramic view of the Devil's Backbone and the coal mines that give dangerous employment to the men of the community. Lily's own father was killed in a mine blast in the Widowmaker due to a build-up of metha Revenge keeps the pain of the wound seeping blood into the forever.Lily Ross bends wearily as she sets thing right in the Rossville jail. Strapped with a derringer at her ankle, Lily eyes the prisoner in the cell facing her. The Appalachian foothills in 1925 in this small Ohio town provide a panoramic view of the Devil's Backbone and the coal mines that give dangerous employment to the men of the community. Lily's own father was killed in a mine blast in the Widowmaker due to a build-up of methane gas.Lily tends to her duties as the jail mistress. It's just within sight of their small home where her two young children sleep contently under the watchful eye of Hildy. Her husband, Sheriff Daniel Ross, left to pick up another prisoner. He promises to be back in time for her famous buttermilk pie.As the hours pass, Lily waits alert to any footsteps on the stairs. But the footsteps on the stairs aren't going to belong to Daniel. His Uncle Elias stands in the doorway with sorry written in the form of blood on his hands and his shirt. Daniel has been shot to death on the county road. It appears that the prisoner wrestled away his gun and the tragedy occurs.Within hours of the funeral, Lily is approached by Daniel's deputy to take over the job of sheriff until the elections can take place. And here is where Jess Montgomery steadies your hands as you clench this book tightly. The character of Lily Ross will take on the owners of the local mines, the Bureau of Mine Safety, and the community that wishes to look the other way. Lily will lock eyes with Marvena, a mine widow, who seems to know Daniel on a different level. She, too, knows that Daniel's death reeks of murder.Montgomery presents a storyline so character driven and so polished in its detail that you feel like you are in surround-sound. The era is one of sacrifice and hard living in which tomorrow is never fully promised. At the core is an adept layering of threads filled with rawness and reality. And two women, Lily and Marvena, will settle scores and take on inhuman challenges presented to them. Jess Montgomery keeps the pulse of this story pumping and you will savor each and every moment.I received a copy of The Widows through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to St. Martin's Press and to Jess Montgomery for the opportunity.
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  • Fran
    January 1, 1970
    "Life often demands doing contradictory things in exchange for survival". Life in the Appalachian mining town of Kinship, Ohio changed in the blink of an eye following a 1924 cave-in resulting from an undetectable buildup of methane gas ignited by lightning. John Rutherford, Marvena Whitcomb's common-law husband and Caleb McArthur, Lily Ross's father died trying to rescue trapped miners in the Widowmaker. Lily and Marvena would soon meet each other under less than ideal circumstances.Lily Ross w "Life often demands doing contradictory things in exchange for survival". Life in the Appalachian mining town of Kinship, Ohio changed in the blink of an eye following a 1924 cave-in resulting from an undetectable buildup of methane gas ignited by lightning. John Rutherford, Marvena Whitcomb's common-law husband and Caleb McArthur, Lily Ross's father died trying to rescue trapped miners in the Widowmaker. Lily and Marvena would soon meet each other under less than ideal circumstances.Lily Ross was jail mistress, keeping prisoner records and assisting her husband, extremely popular Sheriff, Daniel Ross. Daniel's half-brother, Luther owned and managed Ross Mining. Miners lived in company housing and were paid in scrip, in lieu of money, to be used for purchases in the company store. Workers who complained often were forced to vacate company housing units. Luther hired Pinkertons, thugs used an enforcers. Sheriff Ross was sent by a Pinkerton to pick up and jail a prisoner who was a miner. Daniel never returned. Lily was informed that he was killed by the "escaping" prisoner.Lily and Marvena meet after Daniel's funeral. Each woman has a connection to him. What happened to the close, honest marriage between Daniel and Lily? The uncomfortable relationship between these two strong minded, determined women was ever changing. Lily had been appointed acting sheriff until a new election. This title would enable her to investigate Daniel's death. Marvena would "keep stirring up" what her husband started, the organization of mine workers. Luther Ross with the backing of hired Pinkertons, was not having it!Lily and Marvena had joined the "sorrowful sisterhood of widows". Will acting Sheriff Lily Ross glean the details of her husband's death? Will Marvena Whitcomb's attempts to organize mine workers be successful? Did Lily truly know Daniel? So many questions...deaths...disappearances."The Widows" by Jess Montgomery was a historical fiction debut novel loosely based upon the true story of Ohio's first female sheriff, Maude Collins and activist, "Mother" Jones. Both Lily and Marvena were women crusaders fighting corruption and seeking justice. I highly recommend this book.Thank you St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Widows".
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  • DJ Sakata
    January 1, 1970
    Favorite Quote:Mama’s round face is so puckered with outrage that her mouth looks like the top of a drawstring purse.My Review:I am in awe of this author, this is her first novel and it was simply stellar! The storytelling was commanding, cunningly crafted, enthralling, emotive, highly descriptive, and smartly nuanced. I was instantly sucked into her vortex and heard a multitude of sounds, accents, and dialects in my head. I was right there with them, riding in their cars, feeling the dynamite b Favorite Quote:Mama’s round face is so puckered with outrage that her mouth looks like the top of a drawstring purse.My Review:I am in awe of this author, this is her first novel and it was simply stellar! The storytelling was commanding, cunningly crafted, enthralling, emotive, highly descriptive, and smartly nuanced. I was instantly sucked into her vortex and heard a multitude of sounds, accents, and dialects in my head. I was right there with them, riding in their cars, feeling the dynamite blasts as well as their deep sorrows, and smelling their sweat and fear. The mystery was hopelessly intriguing and appeared an impossibly tangled knot that I feared was without hope for a solution. I was so deeply engrossed in their tale I experienced the conflict of simultaneous relief and grief upon completion. Jess Montgomery’s word voodoo packs a powerful punch and is dangerously hypnotic.
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  • Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
    January 1, 1970
    The year is 1924, and Lilly Ross learns her husband, Kinship's sheriff was killed while transporting a prisoner. However, just after the funeral, a strange woman shows up not knowing that Daniel Ross is dead. Marvena Whitcomb has known Daniel for years, and now she's there to talk to him about her missing daughter. Her husband was a coal miner who died a while back. Both women have to deal with the loss of Daniel, and they join forces to find out the truth about his death.READ THE REST OF THE RE The year is 1924, and Lilly Ross learns her husband, Kinship's sheriff was killed while transporting a prisoner. However, just after the funeral, a strange woman shows up not knowing that Daniel Ross is dead. Marvena Whitcomb has known Daniel for years, and now she's there to talk to him about her missing daughter. Her husband was a coal miner who died a while back. Both women have to deal with the loss of Daniel, and they join forces to find out the truth about his death.READ THE REST OF THE REVIEW OVER AT FRESH FICTION!
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  • Fictionophile
    January 1, 1970
    A story of two courageous, hard-working, and thoroughly admirable women, this story is set in an Appalachian mining community where a mine called "The Widowmaker" has proven its name on three separate occasions..."The sisterhood of widows. Such a sorrowful sisterhood Lily has joined."Lily Ross - Wife of the Sheriff, Daniel Ross, pregnant and with two young children, she is widowed at the tender age of twenty-six. Approached by the deputy and offered the position of temporary sheriff, Lily accept A story of two courageous, hard-working, and thoroughly admirable women, this story is set in an Appalachian mining community where a mine called "The Widowmaker" has proven its name on three separate occasions..."The sisterhood of widows. Such a sorrowful sisterhood Lily has joined."Lily Ross - Wife of the Sheriff, Daniel Ross, pregnant and with two young children, she is widowed at the tender age of twenty-six. Approached by the deputy and offered the position of temporary sheriff, Lily accepts. She aims to find out how and why her beloved husband was killed. They have underestimated Lily's strength and obstinacy.Marvena Whitcomb - Widow of a miner, mother to two girls, and former lover and lifelong friend of Daniel Ross. The thirty-five year-old Marvena, having suffered many losses due to the dire conditions in the mining industry, is a union organizer. She is also a moonshiner during the lean years of prohibition."So many believe women are too sensitive for life's brutal truths. That's only, Lily thinks, because they've not experienced the brutal truths life gives particularly and uniquely to women."The women overcome mistrust to merge together to combat desperate conditions and corrupt men of power. And, most importantly, to find out the hows and whys of Daniel Ross's murder.MY THOUGHTSIt is obvious that Jess Montgomery didn't stint on her meticulous research. She crafted two fictional woman who became flesh and blood to the reader. Vividly described places and situations expound on the extreme poverty and resilience of the coal mining families in the 1920s. A time when the 'company' owned the houses the miners lived in, owned the schools the children attended, employed the only doctor for miles, and owned the store the miners shopped at. It was a time when young boys worked in the mines as early as the age of eleven. Also, it was a time when the Pinkerton Agency was just a band of 'thugs for hire'.The women overcome the odds in a time when women had little, if any, socioeconomic power. In addition to the dangerous and downright criminal practices of the mining company, they expose kickbacks, organized criminals, and murder. All the while tending to their children, cooking, cleaning, and more. These women will remain in my memory for a very long time.This fiction debut by author Jess Montgomery proves that she has a writing talent to be reckoned with - and should be a firm favorite of all lovers of historical fiction. Highly recommended.I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Minotaur/St. Martin's Press via NetGalley in order to participate in a TLC Blog Tour. 4.5 stars rounded up for Goodreads
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  • Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
    January 1, 1970
    This Historical Fiction novel sets itself apart from others in this popular genre by focusing on the lives and points of view of two women in a small, coal mining town in Ohio during the 1920's. Coal mining, especially in the early 20th century, was a dangerous business and in this book, two women, with a complicated bond, find themselves in the middle of a controversy as some townspeople want to organize a union while others will do anything to stop it.Inspired by true events, the story follows This Historical Fiction novel sets itself apart from others in this popular genre by focusing on the lives and points of view of two women in a small, coal mining town in Ohio during the 1920's. Coal mining, especially in the early 20th century, was a dangerous business and in this book, two women, with a complicated bond, find themselves in the middle of a controversy as some townspeople want to organize a union while others will do anything to stop it.Inspired by true events, the story follows Lily, the first female sheriff in Ohio, and Marvena, a coal miner's widow. These women are determined single mothers who take on the greed and corruption that has taken over their small town. There are many characters added into the story (sometimes making it hard to remember who is who) but if readers are patient, their connections to the story and main characters will be revealed. The characters are varied and show the different groups of people living in this small town. From the poor townspeople that rely on bootlegging to get by, to the rich mine owners and Pinkertons who aim to control the small town and its residents by any means possible.While there is a mystery at the heart of the book, I found my focus to be more on the historical aspects rather than the mystery surrounding the death of Lily's husband and Marvena's missing daughter. With rich descriptions, Montgomery brings readers to a historical time and place that many (including myself) may not know much about. Overall, this is a well-researched historical read set during a tumultuous time. I enjoyed seeing the story through the eyes of women and witnessing the difficult stereotypes they faced during a time when men dominated business and the law. This is the first book in a new series, and I think readers will look forward to getting to know Lily and Marvena better in future books.Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to TLC Book Tours and Minotaur Books for providing me with a complimentary advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.I have a book giveaway (Canada and US only) on my blog:https://thebakingbookworm.blogspot.co...
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  • Debby
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books for this read in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions contained herein are my own.This was a first time read for me by Jess Montgomery that was a well-written novel. "The Widows" is set in 1920’s Ohio, in a small town that depends on its living from a mining company. Lily Ross is the Sheriff’s wife of Bronwyn County who serves as the jail mistress, and who enjoys working with her husband. Her husband’s connections with the Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books for this read in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions contained herein are my own.This was a first time read for me by Jess Montgomery that was a well-written novel. "The Widows" is set in 1920’s Ohio, in a small town that depends on its living from a mining company. Lily Ross is the Sheriff’s wife of Bronwyn County who serves as the jail mistress, and who enjoys working with her husband. Her husband’s connections with the owner of the local mine, her bother-in-law enables her to understand the mechanics that go on within the mining community. Unfortunately, her husband is killed transporting a prisoner and she must deal with her loss and with raising her two young children. She also uncovers the secret life her husband lived and is bent on finding his killer. The other woman, Marvena Whitcomb is strong-willed and loses her common law husband, who was the local union organizer in the mines trying to save others. Her quest is to find out what has happened to her daughter. This novel was a very nice piece of historical fiction from a woman’s point of view dealing with a mining community dominated by men and tears down stereotypes put on women of the time. It has its twists and turns surrounding the greed of people involved in the coal mining industry in the 1920s and did not disappoint. It began strong and held this reader’s attention until the end.I think the author did a very good job with researching the history of her story bringing forth as story inspired by true events. I loved the strong convictions and courage held by these two women as they learned to understand and trust each other. Truly a wonderful book.4.5 Stars
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  • Heather Blake
    January 1, 1970
    Oh, how I love this book. Two strong women, a gripping mystery, and so beautifully written that I can practically hear the hawk’s cry, taste the sorghum, and feel coal dust on my skin. The Widows has earned a spot on my keeper shelf, and may there be many, many more books in this series to come.
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  • Dennis
    January 1, 1970
    I'm torn between 3 and 3.5 stars. The Widows is a character rich historical-fiction novel that takes place in small town, coal mining Ohio during the 1920's. The two main protagonists, Lily and Marvena, are both strong, independent, and powerful women, who are helping shape America's coal mining society during a time where the rich kept getting richer, while the poor was kept in the shadows. Kind of reminds me of America today... While Lily represents Ohio as their first female sheriff, Marvena I'm torn between 3 and 3.5 stars. The Widows is a character rich historical-fiction novel that takes place in small town, coal mining Ohio during the 1920's. The two main protagonists, Lily and Marvena, are both strong, independent, and powerful women, who are helping shape America's coal mining society during a time where the rich kept getting richer, while the poor was kept in the shadows. Kind of reminds me of America today... While Lily represents Ohio as their first female sheriff, Marvena represents the coal industry townsfolk struggling to organize and union. Lily's husband is killed while transporting a prisoner, and she struggles to work while being a single parent, while Marvena loses her husband as well in the mines. The two characters face off in a battle that both parties are unprepared for, but they both believe that they're right. The Widows provides a gripping bird's eye view from a woman's point of view, at a time where women were not regarded as equals in society. While the mystery is strong, the story also provides realistic storytelling—allowing readers to take a peek into the greed and corruption of a time period that is most often overlooked.
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  • Lesa
    January 1, 1970
    It's taken me a little while to read Jess Montgomery's debut historical novel. It's a compelling storybased on two historical figures, and the author has brought them together in a riveting story of two strong women. And, it appears to be the first Sheriff Lily Ross historical mystery.Lily Ross was content to be the jail mistress in Bronwyn County, Ohio. Her husband, Daniel, is sheriff in the community that's dependent on mining. But, Bronwyn County has faced its share of mining disasters. Ross It's taken me a little while to read Jess Montgomery's debut historical novel. It's a compelling storybased on two historical figures, and the author has brought them together in a riveting story of two strong women. And, it appears to be the first Sheriff Lily Ross historical mystery.Lily Ross was content to be the jail mistress in Bronwyn County, Ohio. Her husband, Daniel, is sheriff in the community that's dependent on mining. But, Bronwyn County has faced its share of mining disasters. Ross Mining Company's Mine #9 is called the Widowmaker after the cave-in that killed forty-two men. In September 1924, more men are lost in another cave-in, including several men who tried to rescue the miners. Lily's father was one of them.Marvena lost her common-law husband when he tried to rescue miners. John and Marvena were attempting to organize the miners, urging them to unionize. Now, Marvena is the force behind the organizing. But, she's hoping Sheriff Daniel Ross, a childhood friend, will announce he's siding with the miners instead of his half-brother, Luther, who owns the mines.While Marvena knows about Daniel's wife, Lily knows nothing of Marvena. Then men show up to tell her Daniel was killed, probably by a miner. It's only when Marvena shows up on the day of the funeral, looking for Daniel, that they discover their interest in the same man. But, Lily has marriage on her side, Daniel's children, and her pregnancy. She also has unexpected power after the Bronwyn County Commission asks Lily to be acting sheriff.What do two young women have in common other than Daniel Ross? Determination, and "the sisterhood of widows". Lily's determined to find Daniel's killer, while she's still sheriff, and Marvena wants to learn what happened to her missing teenage daughter. But, both women care about the community, the miners, their wives, their children, their widows. How can two women take on powerful forces? Remember that "sisterhood of widows".Montgomery's novel is based on the story of Ohio's first female sheriff, and the accounts of the organizing done by activist Mary Harris Jones, Mother Jones. It's a fascinating book, with more than just a couple strong women. It's a novel that strives to give women a voice in history.
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  • KC
    January 1, 1970
    1920s Ohio and soon Lilly learns the fate of her husband. Sheriff Daniel Ross is killed while transporting a prisoner. Sadly, Lilly must face the fact that her husband had a secret past, linking his life with Minerva, a coal miners widow. After Minerva's teen daughter goes missing and fearing the worst, she seeks assistance from Daniel. These two women, strong, determined and persistent push forward with the hope of unveiling the truth behind their loses, threading their lives together as one. I 1920s Ohio and soon Lilly learns the fate of her husband. Sheriff Daniel Ross is killed while transporting a prisoner. Sadly, Lilly must face the fact that her husband had a secret past, linking his life with Minerva, a coal miners widow. After Minerva's teen daughter goes missing and fearing the worst, she seeks assistance from Daniel. These two women, strong, determined and persistent push forward with the hope of unveiling the truth behind their loses, threading their lives together as one. Inspired by true events, this part mystery, part drama will appeal to those who enjoy Tawni O'Dell.
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  • Janice
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed immensely this story of two incredibly strong women, who dared to step outside the conventional roles usually open to women of their time. Lily is the sheriff of her county, and Marvena is a union leader, and spokesperson for the coal miners in their Appalachian area. The setting is southeastern Ohio in the 1920’s, and there would seem to be more that would cause conflict between these two than would draw them together. For one, they loved the same man, and for another they might be co I enjoyed immensely this story of two incredibly strong women, who dared to step outside the conventional roles usually open to women of their time. Lily is the sheriff of her county, and Marvena is a union leader, and spokesperson for the coal miners in their Appalachian area. The setting is southeastern Ohio in the 1920’s, and there would seem to be more that would cause conflict between these two than would draw them together. For one, they loved the same man, and for another they might be considered to be on opposite sides of the law, as the coal miners become increasingly agitated over safety issues, poor pay, and high prices at the company store. But there is more that unites Lily and Marvena: one, yes, they had loved the same man. And Lily is adamant in her beliefs about a woman’s right to vote, and is a strong supporter of unionization. They recognize in each other the pain of great loss, held close to the heart. Together they try to negotiate between the miners and owners, and to prevent an outright uprising, and violence on both sides. The author states that although these two women are her own creation, both are loosely based on historical figures: Lily is representative of Maude Collins, the first female sheriff in Ohio, taking office in 1925 (there was not a second woman sheriff in the state until 1976). And Marvena was inspired by Mother Jones, who campaigned hard for the rights of women, and for workers and unions.My thanks to Netgalley, to Jess Montgomery, and to Minotaur Books, for the copy of this book I was provided, to read and review.
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  • Rebecca Rosenberg
    January 1, 1970
    A gut-wrenching novel about the mining industry in this country. Jess's description and characters will draw you in and keep you with them to the end of this moving novel. I was reading THE WIDOWS simultaneously with EDUCATED, and had trouble keeping them separate! Fabulous novel about an important aspect of our American history that is so meaningful still today.
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  • Jessica Strawser
    January 1, 1970
    Pulling back the curtain on a time and place where women's roles were too often overlooked, The Widows is full of characters who surprise those who underestimate them. A rich, empowering and satisfying read.
  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for the free copy in exchange for my honest review. I’ve said it many times before, but I’m a huge fan of historical fiction. Throw in a mystery and that’s a combination I’m sure to enjoy! THE WIDOWS by Jess Montgomery was an incredibly engrossing read – the descriptions and writing were so detailed without being bogged down. You actually feel like you’re there with these women and experiencing everything alongside them.What’s better than a strong fema Thanks to William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for the free copy in exchange for my honest review. I’ve said it many times before, but I’m a huge fan of historical fiction. Throw in a mystery and that’s a combination I’m sure to enjoy! THE WIDOWS by Jess Montgomery was an incredibly engrossing read – the descriptions and writing were so detailed without being bogged down. You actually feel like you’re there with these women and experiencing everything alongside them.What’s better than a strong female lead? Well, two of them, obviously. Montgomery intertwines the lives of Lily Ross and Marvena Whitcomb. What do they have in common? Lily’s husband, Daniel Ross, was the town’s respected sheriff that was tragically killed while transporting a prisoner. Marvena arrives at their doorstep after the funeral demanding to speak with him.Secrets about Daniel Ross begin to unfold leading both women to realize that he was not the man they thought he was. As they try to solve his murder together, they quickly find themselves digging into a corruption that goes deeper than they could have imagined.If anything, I would highly recommend this book for the writing alone. The detail and thought that went into this shows and I’m stunned that this is a debut!
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  • Suz Jay
    January 1, 1970
    “…So many believe women are too sensitive for life’s brutal truths. That’s only, Lily thinks, because they’ve not experienced the brutal truths life gives particularly and uniquely to women.”*I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. In 1925, two strong women live in an Ohio mining town. The man who loves them both is killed and together they sort the facts from the fiction about his death and his relationships with them both. With Lily’ “…So many believe women are too sensitive for life’s brutal truths. That’s only, Lily thinks, because they’ve not experienced the brutal truths life gives particularly and uniquely to women.”*I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. In 1925, two strong women live in an Ohio mining town. The man who loves them both is killed and together they sort the facts from the fiction about his death and his relationships with them both. With Lily’s father and Marvena’s common law husband both causalities of unsafe mining practices, the plight of the miners becomes a personal battle. Lily is appointed sheriff, and she uses her new position to right wrongs.To me, the message of this book is the power of women. Both Lily and Marvena are underestimated. Despite Lily’s experience as jail mistress, no one expects her to do more than be a figurehead until a new sheriff is elected. Yet, she uses everything at her disposal to do her job well and to make the town a better place. As a character, she grows throughout the book, but her goodness and determination are evident from her first appearance on the page. The book tackles relationships between romantic partners, family members, and rivals, showing how the dynamics serve to build bridges and to burn them down. Plenty of details are included to satisfy history buffs, yet the book isn’t bogged down by the past. Quickly I became invested in Lily and Marvena’s lives, wanting them to prevail and forge a lasting bond. While historical fiction isn’t one of my go to genres, these two women and their struggles, tragedies, and triumphs made the book a five star read for me.Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to experience THE WIDOWS in advance of its release.*Please note that my review is based on uncorrected text.
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  • Deb
    January 1, 1970
    Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, especially when it takes me into the past and to aspects of history that I am not familiar with. In the case of The Widows, I was transported to the Appalachians and rural Ohio coal mines in 1925 where I learned about the attempts to unionize the mines and provide the workers with fair employment practices and safer working conditions, all why trying to solve a murder and a disappearance in a book with two strong female leads, based on real-life wo Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, especially when it takes me into the past and to aspects of history that I am not familiar with. In the case of The Widows, I was transported to the Appalachians and rural Ohio coal mines in 1925 where I learned about the attempts to unionize the mines and provide the workers with fair employment practices and safer working conditions, all why trying to solve a murder and a disappearance in a book with two strong female leads, based on real-life women. The character of Lily Ross is loosely based on Ohio’s first female sheriff, Maude Collins, appointed after her husband was killed during a traffic stop. Jess Montgomery had her character face a similar circumstance but made the question of who killed Lily’s husband Daniel the main mystery the book is centered around. As she investigates his death, Lily discovers aspects of Daniel’s life hidden from her including Marvena Whitcomb, also a widow, with a past that intersects with Daniel’s. Marvena is leading the local miners and their families in battling Daniel’s half-brother and his mining company against their unsafe work practices, all too real to both woman as Lily’s father and Marvena’s husband died in the mines while trying to rescue miners after a cave-in. Marvena’s character is also loosely based a real person, Mary Harris (Mother) Jones, the labor activist who co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World. Both lead characters are strong and doing what they need to do to take care of their families and communities. Lily steps into Daniel’s role of Sheriff while Marvena sells moonshine to support her daughter, Frankie. Marvena also spent time as a ‘working girl’ at the local boarding house, something her older daughter, Eula was doing when she turned up missing and Daniel was looking into her disappearance when he was killed, purportedly by Marvena’s brother Tom. Despite their dissimilar backgrounds, both women loved Daniel and find themselves working together and forging a relationship despite their differing backgrounds and economic levels.I enjoyed the setting of the book and the way Montgomery wove the stories together, although The Widows isn’t a fast-moving mystery, it was absorbing and kept me engaged throughout. The mysteries—Tom’s death and Eula’s disappearance, were compelling, and while I guessed correctly about most of what happened, there were still some good twists to the story. I was interested in both Lily and Marvena’s characters and the fact it is a debut novel and is so well researched and written is impressive. I am happy to hear that The Widows is the first book in The Kinship Series and look forward to spending more time in the town of Kinship and its surrounding community. If you enjoy historical fiction, books set in rural Ohio and the surrounding area, stories with strong empowered female characters, mysteries, and learning more about American history, add The Widows to your TBR list. You can see my review, a recipe inspired by my reading and enter to win a copy (through 1/21/19) on my blog post here: https://kahakaikitchen.blogspot.com/2...Note: A review copy of "The Widows" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
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  • Paul Goat
    January 1, 1970
    The debut novel from Montgomery (the pseudonymous Sharon Short)—a historical mystery that is based around the lives of two heroic women living in a 1920’s Appalachian mining town—is nothing short of a masterwork. A storytelling tour de force. Easily one of the most unforgettable novels I’ve read in recent years. As a book critic for the last 22 years, it’s my job to spot flaws—and this novel was virtually flawless. The stories of Lily Ross, the widow of a murdered sheriff who takes on his job to The debut novel from Montgomery (the pseudonymous Sharon Short)—a historical mystery that is based around the lives of two heroic women living in a 1920’s Appalachian mining town—is nothing short of a masterwork. A storytelling tour de force. Easily one of the most unforgettable novels I’ve read in recent years. As a book critic for the last 22 years, it’s my job to spot flaws—and this novel was virtually flawless. The stories of Lily Ross, the widow of a murdered sheriff who takes on his job to help find his killer, and Marvena Whitcomb, who is continuing her dead common-law husband’s crusade to unionize mineworkers, come together in this stark and brutal tale of greed, tragedy, and systematic oppression. There’s so much to love here: the fact that the two female lead characters are loosely based on heroic historical figures (Maude Collins, the first female sheriff in Ohio, and Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, a prominent activist who cofounded Industrial Workers of the World ); the depth of the mystery surrounding the murder of Lily’s husband; the emotional connection readers will have with Lily and Marvena; the powerful themes exploring socially acceptable sexism and racism of the day, etc. But it was the “literary” feel that made this such an unforgettable read for me. Montgomery subtly utilizes sensory description, imagery, and symbolism throughout to create a story that impacts readers on multiple levels. Here are a few examples of how she uses varied sensory descriptors to fully immerse readers in the 1920s Appalachian mining town:"Soon so many people are packed standing-room-only in the tiny church that their body heat brings forth the smell of their lives from deep within their own flesh; their body heat coaxes from wooden pews and leather Bibles smells of other sinners and mourners who've gathered there time and again.""The stiff night smells like the promise of coming rain, though its scent is doused by the strong odor of corn mash fermenting with yeast. Afar off a coyote howls, then a bit later a screech owl, and in between shivers and sighs of smaller night creatures."Deep readers will also be aware of her use of avian imagery throughout that sublimely symbolizes the two women’s struggles to find justice for themselves and the oppressed coalminers who are essentially indentured servants for the mining company bosses. “As she works, she thinks of the owl that had come to the crab apple tree at dusk the night before. Marvena, outside at the well, has seen it fly from the forest, over the clearing around her cabin, then alight on the tree, right beside her porch. Unnaturally close. It had begun calling. A bad sign. A portent of, perhaps, death.”In many sequences, it reads like poetry: “Whipsaw wind slices through thin coats and thinner skins to gleefully tap their bones.”The dichotomy between the bleak existence in this Appalachian mining town—coupled with the heartless violence of the storyline—and Montgomery’s darkly lyrical prose creates a novel that is addictively readable and emotionally intense, with the thematic power of a steel-toed boot to the groin. I dare you to read a few pages. You won’t be able to put it down.
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  • Victoria Colotta
    January 1, 1970
    My Highly Caffeinated Thought: A emotional and compelling story steeped in the history of the 1920s and centering on two fiercely tenacious women.THE WIDOWS is the third book I have read this year and if it is setting the tone for what is to come, we are all in for some amazing books. Montgomery brings to life this mining town through effortless storytelling, lyrical writing, and strong, passionate female characters. For me, the heart of this story lies with Lily and Marvena. From the first mome My Highly Caffeinated Thought: A emotional and compelling story steeped in the history of the 1920s and centering on two fiercely tenacious women.THE WIDOWS is the third book I have read this year and if it is setting the tone for what is to come, we are all in for some amazing books. Montgomery brings to life this mining town through effortless storytelling, lyrical writing, and strong, passionate female characters. For me, the heart of this story lies with Lily and Marvena. From the first moment they interact, the reader is able to see what could be between these two if just get to know each other. Brought together because of Lily’s late husband Daniel and Marvena’s desire to find out what happened to her daughter, these ladies set down a path I don’t believe either ever thought they would. We are shown a glimpse into their worlds through the struggles and pain each have experienced. Their story is one of reliance just as much as it is hardships. It involves multiple stories which in the end come together seamlessly. The beauty of this book is the writing. With eloquence and almost poetic style, Montgomery shows the camaraderie of those who band together, the emotional toll being of losing loved ones, and the grit of this time period of our history. Laced with a few mysteries, I was completely addicted to this book. There is so much I want to say about this one, but I think I will let you read it for yourself.Reviewer Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.Highly Caffeinated Rating of… ☕ ☕ ☕ ☕ ☕✦ ✦ ✦ ✦Follow the Highly Caffeinated Victoria Colotta: Website | Facebook | Twitter @vcolotta | Instagram | Goodreads✦ ✦ ✦ ✦
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  • Cathy Geha
    January 1, 1970
    The Widows by Jess MontgomeryKinship #1Lapsang Souchong – not Jasmine Tea – One thought I had while reading this book. Now, my mother loved a smokey tea and...others no doubt love it too...not my favorite flavor but I do have to say this book grew on me as I continued to read. That thought happened at the beginning of the book and as I read I kept thinking that neither of the main characters were people I could really relate to and I wondered why. It wasn’t the era of the early 1900’s or the loc The Widows by Jess MontgomeryKinship #1Lapsang Souchong – not Jasmine Tea – One thought I had while reading this book. Now, my mother loved a smokey tea and...others no doubt love it too...not my favorite flavor but I do have to say this book grew on me as I continued to read. That thought happened at the beginning of the book and as I read I kept thinking that neither of the main characters were people I could really relate to and I wondered why. It wasn’t the era of the early 1900’s or the location in the Appalachian coal country or even the fact that the number of widows was huge within the area because...post war there would be widows. I think perhaps that Lily and Marvena took time to really know and didn’t seem the warmest women I have ever met in a book. As the story unfolded I saw a bit more of who they were and why they made the choices they did but even at the end of the story I didn’t feel I knew them well. Perhaps as this series continues the characters and their back stories and thoughts and reasoning will be exposed a bit at a time and I will come to know them better and warm to them, too. I did think about not finishing the book but in the end am glad I did finish it and can say that I am interested in finding out what happens in Kinship when book two comes out. This book deals with a great deal of loss and is filled with the darkness of a mining town with the oppression of miners in that period. There is more than one murder so a mystery to solve. There are evil men with agendas of their own. There is the slow unveiling of who Lily’s husband Daniel was besides being the Sheriff and her husband. This is the story of two women that may forge a friendship as the series continues and it is a story that though dark does have a bit of hope toward the end. Did I like the story? More at the end than in the beginningWould I read more in this series? Yes, to see where the author plans to go with the charactersWhat did I like? That it made me think and wonder even though it was not an easy readThank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press-Minotaur for the ARC – This is my honest review3-4 Stars
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  • Carin
    January 1, 1970
    This is a historical novel that feels like a Western. It's set in rural, Appalachian Ohio in the 1920, but it feels older and more Western than that, as this neck of the woods was a bit behind the times. And like you sometimes get in those old Westerns, this is a story of the gumption of two strong women, both lightly based on real historical women.The first one, Lily, is married to the town sheriff, and she runs the jail, which is in the back of their house (think: The Andy Griffith Show.) Unti This is a historical novel that feels like a Western. It's set in rural, Appalachian Ohio in the 1920, but it feels older and more Western than that, as this neck of the woods was a bit behind the times. And like you sometimes get in those old Westerns, this is a story of the gumption of two strong women, both lightly based on real historical women.The first one, Lily, is married to the town sheriff, and she runs the jail, which is in the back of their house (think: The Andy Griffith Show.) Until one day he is shot and killed, transporting a prisoner from the mine back to the jail. Except Lily doesn't believe that prisoner killed him. And luckily, she's appointed his replacement, so she's in an excellent position to look into his death further. (Based on the real first female sheriff in Ohio.)She meet up with Marvena, whose husband was recently killed in a mining explosion. Marvena had been a good friend of Lily's husband, and rumored to be more. But they ignore the rumors and band together to find out what's really going on behind the scenes in their town. Marvena is organizing the miners into a union (she's based on Mother Jones) and they both want their town to be a place of honesty and justice, not backstabbing and exploitation. They will come up against some powerful forces, but these stubborn, angry women with little to lose, are happy to demonstrate how tough they are despite their long hair and dresses. Especially when it comes to defending their kids.These women are inspiring and really define the word gumption like no other. In a time when the strength of women was in question it's refreshing to read about women who stood up to the boys' club and men's power plays even when it was life-threatening. and if that's not enough, the mystery about what really happened to Daniel will keep you guessing.
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  • eyes.2c
    January 1, 1970
    Gripping!"The hawk is a sign to be alert, to consider carefully one’s situation."Widows Lily Ross and Marvena Whitcom will need to be hawk like for all that they will endure. 1924 Kinship, Ohio. Two widows joined by their relationship to the town's sheriff Daniel Ross. One is Daniel's widow Lily Ross, the other is Marvena Whitcom, a coal miner's widow and long a friend of Daniel. Shockingly for the small community, Daniel is killed whilst transporting a prisoner.Lily is asked to take on the role Gripping!"The hawk is a sign to be alert, to consider carefully one’s situation."Widows Lily Ross and Marvena Whitcom will need to be hawk like for all that they will endure. 1924 Kinship, Ohio. Two widows joined by their relationship to the town's sheriff Daniel Ross. One is Daniel's widow Lily Ross, the other is Marvena Whitcom, a coal miner's widow and long a friend of Daniel. Shockingly for the small community, Daniel is killed whilst transporting a prisoner.Lily is asked to take on the role of sheriff. All expect her to toe the line, be a figurehead, but Lily is determined to find Daniel's killer.And that search leads her to Maverna, to a troubled coal mining town, to secrets Daniel has hidden from her, to organized crime interests during prohibition and into dangerous territories including the not so heroic side of the Pinkerton Detective employees.Beyond a powerful story of loss, of rage, and a growing unlikely friendship is a fascinating treatise into coal industry communities of the times, mining conditions, mining company practices and the miners fight for unionization.The women of the town, their economies and support of each other is vivid, often poignant and show the sting the of such communities in the simple acts of providing for each other and working together. The number of widows becomes apparent as the story unfolds. Lily and Morvena are strong women whose lives are bound together by the past and their future. I think the moments of them coming to trust each other are beautifully drawn as their relationship builds towards the climax.A truly unique read. A St. Martin's Press Minotaur ARC via NetGalley
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  • Sheri Melnick
    January 1, 1970
    by sherimelnickMontgomery’s writing takes center stage with her lyrical storytelling as she introduces readers to Lily Ross, who becomes a sheriff in 1920’s Ohio after her husband, Bronwyn County Sheriff Daniel Ross, is murdered in the line of duty.Though Lily exudes a fragile beauty, she is resilient and intelligent, and is determined to find out who is responsible for her husband’s murder. She works tirelessly to prove that she is capable of assuming the duties of sheriff and mother to her you by sherimelnickMontgomery’s writing takes center stage with her lyrical storytelling as she introduces readers to Lily Ross, who becomes a sheriff in 1920’s Ohio after her husband, Bronwyn County Sheriff Daniel Ross, is murdered in the line of duty.Though Lily exudes a fragile beauty, she is resilient and intelligent, and is determined to find out who is responsible for her husband’s murder. She works tirelessly to prove that she is capable of assuming the duties of sheriff and mother to her young children while coping with the nausea of her pregnancy.Lily is told that Daniel was killed by a prisoner whom he was transporting back to the jailhouse. But the clues she discovers tell a different story, and Tom, the prisoner, just happens to be missing.Lily meets Tom’s sister Marvena, a woman who unbeknownst to Lily, had known Daniel for years, and had asked for Daniel’s help in finding her missing teenaged daughter Eula.Daniel’s murder is complicated by factions of the community that are opposing one another as the miners are trying to unionize, and mine owners reinforced by Pinkerton agents are threatening the unionization.The complexities of the characters especially Lily and Marvena bring this novel to life with seamless plotting, page-turning mystery, and the promise of future installments.https://sherimelnick.wordpress.com/20...
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  • Cat
    January 1, 1970
    I always enjoy books that are inspired by actual events and The Widows by Jess Montgomery is no exception. The character Lily Ross is based on Ohio’s first female sheriff. Lily has just buried her husband Daniel when she meets Marvena, a poor coal miner’s daughter who may have been Daniel’s first love. Lily is appointed the town’s sheriff and Marvena is secretly trying to unionize the mine labor. These are two very strong-willed women with different goals that lead them to each other for support I always enjoy books that are inspired by actual events and The Widows by Jess Montgomery is no exception. The character Lily Ross is based on Ohio’s first female sheriff. Lily has just buried her husband Daniel when she meets Marvena, a poor coal miner’s daughter who may have been Daniel’s first love. Lily is appointed the town’s sheriff and Marvena is secretly trying to unionize the mine labor. These are two very strong-willed women with different goals that lead them to each other for support.It’s the 1920’s. The town depends on coal mining, where the 1% gets filthy rich and the rest die trying. Lily’s in-laws are deep into the greed of the industry, and Marvena and Lily begin to suspect there’s more to Daniel’s murder than an escaped convict.Montgomery writes with beautiful lyrics that bring the country, the wildlife, the people and their meager sustenance to vivid life. This is a truly enjoyable and captivating read.(I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for making it available.)
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  • Stephen
    January 1, 1970
    "The Widows" is a powerful, evocative historical fiction debut that is also a fine mystery.With luminous prose, descriptive prowess and authentic dialog that give you a wonderful sense of time and place, it tells the tale of two women coming together to find the truth behind the death of a man they both loved.1925 - coal mining country, southwestern Ohio:"I, Lily Ross, do solemnly swear that I will support, uphold, and defend the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State o "The Widows" is a powerful, evocative historical fiction debut that is also a fine mystery.With luminous prose, descriptive prowess and authentic dialog that give you a wonderful sense of time and place, it tells the tale of two women coming together to find the truth behind the death of a man they both loved.1925 - coal mining country, southwestern Ohio:"I, Lily Ross, do solemnly swear that I will support, uphold, and defend the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Ohio, and the Charter and laws of Bronwyn County, Ohio."Lily Ross is a widow. She is sworn in as interim Sheriff, the first ever in Ohio, in the wake of her sheriff-husband, Daniel's, death. He was supposedly shot by an escaping prisoner.Lily will come to believe otherwise.Marvena Whitcomb is a widow. Her husband died in a coal mining accident six months back.Lily's father was also killed in the same incident.Marvena had a relationship with Daniel for many years.She has taken over her late husband's role as an organizer for the unification of the mine workers.Lily's brother-in-law, Luther, owns Ross Mining.These two women will discover more connections between themselves, Daniel, and Daniel's murder.That is one of the one of the many joys in reading this accomplished novel.Uncovering those connections and clues along with these convincing characters, as they work together in their search for truth and justice in this lavishly absorbing, fast-paced read.Discover for yourselves that Jess Montgomery is a first-rate storyteller.This was an ARC Giveaway in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    In the end, I really enjoyed this book. I only gave it 3 stars, however, because it was very difficult to follow at the beginning. Too many random characters were thrown at the reader with no indication which ones were more important to the overall story. I realize Ms. Montgomery wanted to start off with a bang, but maybe a bit more preamble would have made it less confusing. By the end of the book, everyone was memorable, it just took some time to get there. And, I am not too sure exactly how I In the end, I really enjoyed this book. I only gave it 3 stars, however, because it was very difficult to follow at the beginning. Too many random characters were thrown at the reader with no indication which ones were more important to the overall story. I realize Ms. Montgomery wanted to start off with a bang, but maybe a bit more preamble would have made it less confusing. By the end of the book, everyone was memorable, it just took some time to get there. And, I am not too sure exactly how I feel about how the book ended. If you enjoy historical fiction taking place in 1900s America, this is a wonderful story with strong female characters.A copy of this book was provided by NetGalley and St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Debe
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC from the author. I found this story featuring two female protagonists to be compelling -- I enjoyed seeing them change and mature. They're both in love with the same man and when he is murdered very early in the story, they form a wary kinship: in fact, this novel is the first in Montgomery's Kinship Mysteries. I especially liked time in history -- unionization of coal mines in the 1920s (Prohibition) to be quite fascinating and appreciated the nuances the author added, educati I received an ARC from the author. I found this story featuring two female protagonists to be compelling -- I enjoyed seeing them change and mature. They're both in love with the same man and when he is murdered very early in the story, they form a wary kinship: in fact, this novel is the first in Montgomery's Kinship Mysteries. I especially liked time in history -- unionization of coal mines in the 1920s (Prohibition) to be quite fascinating and appreciated the nuances the author added, educating her reader about company camps, scrip, and the manner in which mountain people, in general, made their way -- her physical descriptions of the landscape are homey, lyrical, and enchanting. I quite enjoyed the pie! If you're an historical mystery lover, you'll enjoy this series. Confession: I am not a mystery reader, but Montgomery lured me over!
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  • R
    January 1, 1970
    This was a captivating historical fiction story set in the 1920s about the lives of coals miners and their efforts in organizing unions. It centered on two strong dedicated women who fought for justice and truth. Lily became Ohio’s first woman sheriff after her husband Daniel was murdered in the line of duty. Marvena, who lost her common law husband due to unsafe mining conditions, took over his fight and became the voice for unionization. This was a fascinating read that will capture your inter This was a captivating historical fiction story set in the 1920s about the lives of coals miners and their efforts in organizing unions. It centered on two strong dedicated women who fought for justice and truth. Lily became Ohio’s first woman sheriff after her husband Daniel was murdered in the line of duty. Marvena, who lost her common law husband due to unsafe mining conditions, took over his fight and became the voice for unionization. This was a fascinating read that will capture your interest from the very first page. Highly recommended!
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  • Claire
    January 1, 1970
    The setting kept on reminding me of the wild west even though this takes place in 1920s Ohio. The coal owner and the mafia owning the law helps the feel of lawlessness in the book. Lily has to deal with her husband being killed and not believing the story of his death. Helpfully, she becomes the temporary sheriff so she has some authority to find out that happened. The other perspective is Marvena who is tied strongly with the miners and is demanding their rights. Both characters are strong and The setting kept on reminding me of the wild west even though this takes place in 1920s Ohio. The coal owner and the mafia owning the law helps the feel of lawlessness in the book. Lily has to deal with her husband being killed and not believing the story of his death. Helpfully, she becomes the temporary sheriff so she has some authority to find out that happened. The other perspective is Marvena who is tied strongly with the miners and is demanding their rights. Both characters are strong and want the same outcome even though they come from different aspects. They're both full characters on their own.I don't know if this was intentional but I thought the title referred to Marvena and Lily but as the story goes on we meet more women who become widows. Men do dangerous things that get them killed and then we watch the women have to live with the consequences.
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  • Therese Thompson
    January 1, 1970
    The author has spun an excellent story around the kernel of truth in the appointment in 1925 of an Ohio sheriff’s widow to his post after his line of duty murder. Excellent characterizations of people in the story, but also of the era itself. Bravo!
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