‘Through the Needle’s Eye’, review

In her first novel Through the Needle’s Eye, Linda Bledsoe provides a grim look into the dark side of the southern Appalachians’ life. It tells the story of Jessie, the oldest child in a poor family in the southern Virginia hills in the late 1950s.

The family has much more things to deal with than lack
of means. The father,
an
alcoholic with a violent temper, is horribly abusive, and the mother is unable
or even unwilling
to help herself and her children. Jessie and her younger brother and sister endure things that no child should, and they also see things that no child should see.

The children are always deprived: of a stable home, enough
food, decent clothes and toys, but also love, care, attention, and emotional support.

From the very beginning, we all understand that Jessie’s plight is
especially dire. Scarred by an accident, Jessie is considered worthless by
everyone, including her parents. As
the oldest child in the family, she is often called upon – or takes it upon herself – to take on responsibility beyond
her years.

The one good thing in her existence is Granny Isabelle, having lived through more than her own
share of hard times. Granny Isabelle sees something in Jessie that no one else takes time to
notice and tries to inspire her to believe that she can rise above. The Bible
informs much of Granny Isabelle’s advice and beliefs; the title of the novel refers to the eye
of the needle, and she tries to convince Jessie that she can make it through.

Without a doubt, Linda Bledsoe makes the desperate lives of children like Jessie horribly real. Therefore, we feel her terror, anger, and confusion when she watches her father beat her mother or waits for the blows that she knows are coming her way. Jessie and her siblings wet themselves so often that the story itself seems soaked in urine and snot at times.