Ivy Pochoda (These Women; Wonder Valley) unleashes a combination of raw energy and poignant loss in Sing Her Down, a ferocious, feminist western. After just a few years in prison, Florence "Florida" Baum is told she qualifies for early release because the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is endangering prisoners. But Florida soon realizes there are two catches. First, she must stay in Arizona, despite desperately wanting to return to her home of Los Angeles. And second, violent and volatile fellow inmate Dios is getting out, too. Florida, born and raised in wealth and privilege, claims she's different from the other women she's been with in captivity, but Dios is determined to prove to Florida that there is as much darkness inside Florida as there is inside herself.
Pochoda's succinct, tense prose sets readers balancing on a tightrope from the start. Told in clipped, atmospheric sections from the perspective of Dios, Florida, an inmate named Kace who hears the voices and stories of others in her mind, and Lobos, a cop with her own troubled past that she wants to escape, Sing Her Down keeps readers destabilized, running from one haunted voice to the next.
As these combustible voices ignite one another, it is Florida's story that takes center stage, positioning her as the novel's troubled protagonist. But while Pochoda invokes the classic western showdown of the hero facing off with a villain both in its opening imagery and in its breathless conclusion, she refuses to make Dios--or any other woman in this blistering and uncanny world--an easy villain. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor