Cover image for The true history of Lyndie B. Hawkins / Gail Shepherd.
The true history of Lyndie B. Hawkins / Gail Shepherd.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Kathy Dawson Books, [2019]

Physical Description:
297 pages ; 22 cm
When twelve-year-old Lyndie and her parents must move to her grandparents' home in small-town Tennessee in 1985, having to keep all family problems private only adds to their problems.-- Provided by Publisher.


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SHE Book Junior Collection

On Order



A one-of-a-kind voice lights up this witty, heartwarming debut set in 1985 Tennessee about the power of homespun wisdom (even when it's wrong), the clash between appearances and secrets, and the barriers to getting help even when it's needed most. Lyndie B. Hawkins loves history, research, and getting to the truth no matter what. But when it comes to her family, her knowledge is full of holes. Like, what happened to her father in the Vietnam War? Where does he disappear to for days? And why exactly did they have to move in with her grandparents? Determined to mold recalcitrant Lyndie into a nice Southern girl even if it kills her, her fusspot grandmother starts with lesson number one- Family=Loyalty=keeping quiet about family secrets. Especially when it comes to Lyndie's daddy. Then DB, a boy from the local juvenile detention center comes to stay with Lyndie's best friend, Dawn. He's as friendly and open as a puppy. There to shape up his act, he has an optimism that's infectious. But it puts Lyndie in direct opposition to her grandmother who'd rather keep up appearances than get her son the help he needs. "When was the last time a story broke your heart and made you laugh in the same chapter? A veritable gold mine of perfect words and fine storytelling, The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins will stay with you long after you close the book." --Augusta Scattergood, author of Glory Be

Author Notes

Gail Shepherd received her creative M.A. from the University of Florida in poetry. She has collaborated on radio plays, written comic serial magazine stories, and published her own biweekly indie newspaper. She currently works in the K-12 education industry, supporting teachers and schools with training and technology. She is a fourth generation Floridian on her mother's side, and she lives in South Florida now with her little family, two dogs, and an awful lot of mosquitoes. The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins is her debut novel.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Which is more important: telling the truth or "honorable lying" out of loyalty to family? In 1985, this question plagues 11-year-old Lyndon Baines Hawkins (named after the 36th U.S. president), especially now that she and her parents have been living with her paternal grandparents in Love's Forge, Tenn., since her father, a troubled Vietnam vet, lost his job. Lyndie, a Civil War history buff and a "stubborn, sassy know-it-all," faces a stiff adversary in her stuffy grandmother, Lady, who values saving face at all costs to preserve the family reputation. The dynamic between the two plays out in Shepherd's crackling debut, which-in addition to examining the importance of truth on both a personal and a historical level-tackles alcoholism, PTSD, and juvenile crime. The story moves at a quick pace as Lyndie struggles to understand why her father has become so different and her mother so withdrawn; a strong counterpoint to Lyndie's family troubles is the development of her friendship with the "criminal boy" living with her best friend Dawn's family. Noteworthy for its strong narrative voice and dramatic character development, including well-drawn secondary figures, this book depicts both the troubling and uplifting vicissitudes of family and camaraderie with unflinching honesty and humor. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

In 1985 Lyndie and her parents move in with her grandparents in Loves Forge, Tennessee, after her father, a Vietnam War veteran grappling with alcoholism, loses his job and her mother develops recurring headaches. Lyndies grandmother, Lady, has a firm view of what a nice Southern family should look like and vehemently tries to force hers into that mold while teaching Lyndie that loyalty means sticking to a schedule, behaving with decorum, and never betraying family secrets. These restrictions leave Lyndie feeling alienated and Lady feeling frustrated, with the familys problems mounting at an alarming rate. Struggling to fit in at school and at home, Lyndie tries to stay close to her best friend Dawn and the kindhearted D.B., a boy Dawns family is hosting from the nearby juvenile detention center, while also keeping a complicated tangle of secrets. The well-developed characters contain a realistic mix of charm and flaws, which makes their progress and setbacks feel especially affecting. Using Lyndies love of history as a vehicle to expose trauma and buried truths throughout the region (and ultimately within each individual), this moving, fast-paced story creates opportunities for discussion and for finding greater empathy. julie roach March/April 2019 p 89(c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



There is such a thing as honorable lying. Take the folks who lied to the authorities to protect slaves on the Underground Railroad. I'm sure if there is a St. Peter, he waved those liars right through the Pearly Gates when they finally arrived to heaven. What people call "white lies" are a sub-category of honorable lying. They're done out of niceness. Such as the time I told Dawn Spurlock she should definitely continue to pursue her knitting projects because she showed great potential in that area. Or, a long-ago girl writing to her soldier brother that everything is just dandy back at home, when to be honest, all the silver-plate has already been looted, and the pigs and chickens carried off to feed the troops. Other honorable lies are the ones you tell to put a good face to the world. These lies have something to do with loyalty, which is important to us Hawkinses. But school lies are a whole different category entirely. I learned all about school lies last year in Colonial History, when I read what our school textbook said compared to the books Mrs. Dooley helped me find in the library, and what I found out reading American History magazine, which I subscribe to. Mrs. Dooley helped me get what she called primary sources for the papers I had to write--like letters and diaries and proclamations and so forth. I finally figured out that my schoolbook was propping up some very wobbly ideas. There were all these ugly, unspoken facts swimming around the murky bottom, under the glossy surface pages of our textbook. And then I started to wonder if everybody was telling these kinds of wobbly, propping-up lies all the time, all around me. If maybe they slid by so smoothly, I just never realized, even when I was bobbing like a cork in an ocean of falsehoods.   Chapter One My grandma Lady is chock-full of opinions that tend to kink up the best-laid plans. I always knew Lady was a fusspot who drove a hard bargain, but it never really sunk in until we had to go live with her. For example, six days after we move in with Lady and Grandpa Tad, me and Daddy are planning a road trip to Cherokee, North Carolina. We aim to go to the funeral of Daddy's buddy Trilby Bigwitch, who fought with Daddy's army unit in Vietnam. Lady has one thing to say about this plan, and then she has another, and then another thing on top. "You're hardly even unpacked yet from moving in," she says. "You need to prepare for school starting Monday," she says. To tell the truth, I do not need to prepare for school; the whole idea of seventh grade is dreadful. I'm trying every trick I can dream up not to dwell on it. Though, she's right--I haven't technically unpacked any boxes. I did carry them up to the second floor. I did stack them in a corner of what is supposed to be my depressing bedroom, down the hall from Daddy's depressing bedroom and the smaller room Ma sleeps in.  My so-called bedroom has purple floral wallpaper and a polished secretary desk with claw feet like a monster. It has a fireplace that looks like it hasn't been lit for two hundred years. Clear as day, no child has ever inhabited that room. I don't see why I have to be the courageous pioneer. Lady and Tad's farmhouse is only eight miles away from my real home, and it's still inside the town boundaries of Love's Forge, but it might as well be a million. It is a place that creaks if you put a toe down on any floorboard. It has wood shutters that bang in the slightest breath of wind. It has a musty parlor that attracts damp and that nobody sits in except after supper. It has a kitchen full of Tennessee knickknacks, including two framed needlepoint pictures. The first one says: Blood makes you related. Loyalty makes you family. The second one says: In Time of Test, Family Is Best . Which I agree with one hundred percent. Only I would add: A Family of Three Was Plenty for Me. Lady and Grandpa Tad's house does come with an overgrown, weedy garden, which Ma could grow her gargantuan root vegetables in, if she ever has a mind to get out of bed again. But if any ponies or goats or chickens ever inhabited the barn or coop, my grandma Lady has long since run them off. What I want most is to be back in our cottage where I was born, only us three, with the doghouse in the backyard, and the birdhouse by my window, and the playhouse in the walnut tree, all matching with white clapboard and shingle roofs. Daddy and I built all those little homes to look exactly like the sweet life-sized home we used to live in. What I want second most, even though I am not partial to funerals, is to go on this road trip with Daddy. When you take a perfect road trip, you go somewhere you've never been before, and then you circle back to where you started out, and it makes you feel both adventurous and cozy. But here we are on Friday afternoon in my grandma Lady's kitchen, the hot air positively swimming with Lady's opinions. She is objecting up one side and down the other to me going along to Trilby's service with Daddy. "It's inappropriate, taking an eleven-year-old girl to be around all those rough men at a military funeral," Lady says. Inappropriate is one of Lady's favorite words. It's a word meant to shave the square edges off a person. She adds, "You don't know the first thing about raising girls to become young ladies, son." Daddy and Ma raised me up fine so far, I think. Without all of your opinions. "I need Lyndie in the passenger seat to read road signs," Daddy argues. "I'll be concentrating on navigating the hairpin turns." It's hardly even a two-hour trip to Cherokee, but Smoky Mountain roads are full of devilish curves, with sick-making drops alongside, so it pays to look sharp. Because Daddy is half-blind in his left eye thanks to a flying piece of shrapnel, and always drives over the speed limit, he needs me to copilot, and I am proud to do it. I'm standing behind his chair, and I put my chin on his shoulder and look down at the road map spread out on the kitchen table. That curvy, curly road from Love's Forge to Cherokee, North Carolina, is a challenge I can handle. "As a bonus," Daddy says. "If there's trouble, I can always count on Lyndon Baines Hawkins to fast-talk our way out of it, right Lyndie? She takes after her namesake that way." He means old president Lyndon Johnson, who I was named for, and who was famous for his powers of persuasion. I give Daddy a good kick under his chair. "There won't be any trouble!" "Tyrus Hawkins." Lady is polishing my school loafers--she waves one at the map. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's a single road through the mountains. You'd have to drive blindfolded and seated backward to get lost. You don't need Lyndie's help with this." "Point." Daddy swivels his head around at me. "As your grandpa Tad would say: Counterpoint?" Grandpa Tad is a lawyer; nobody can beat him in an argument. I'm thrilled he isn't here to take Lady's side. "The thing is," I blurt out, "I have to go." Even I can hear how raw and true those words sound. Lady looks up sharply. She sets one polished loafer on a square of frayed towel and stares first at me, then at my father. "And why would that be?" I can't tell Lady I only yesterday found a half-full bottle of George Dickel Tennessee Whisky in Daddy's car's glove box. Lady is big on personal privacy--that is, when it comes to her own privacy. She doesn't approve of children snooping in glove boxes, or in dresser drawers, or anywhere else either, so I'm in a pickle. A kid only gets to find out important stuff "on a need to know basis," according to my grandmother. Lady strictly doesn't approve of liquor. Who knows what kind of lockdown she would put us all under, if she found out Daddy was secret-keeping whiskey? I'd probably never get to take another car ride with Daddy again in my life. I have chosen to accept my mission: to keep Lady's nose as far out of our business as I can manage and make sure Daddy gets home safe. "The old Hawkins homestead," I croak out, drumming up a good lie. I give Daddy another kick with my foot. "We want to stop in Greeneville on our way back, to visit where Grandpa Tad's granddaddy grew up." "Right!" Daddy picks up the thread with enthusiasm. He's improvisational like that. "Lyndie's been pestering me about the old homestead." "I haven't seen that place since I was nine," I add. "I want to make a diagram of the eighteenth-century barn. And the many log outbuildings." There isn't a drop of truth in this, but there could be, and Lady knows it. Here is the one and only thing me and my grandma share in common--an appreciation for local history. Although I will say, we do disagree hotly on many of the historical particulars. "That's the most sensible thing I've heard," Lady says. "Your grandpa's grandfather Fayette Hawkins lived and died right here." Lady taps her finger on the map and lifts her chin at Daddy. "And your grandpa spent many a summer there. Maybe some of Fayette's unimpeachable character and high dignity will rub off on your daughter." "I believe that might happen," Daddy says. "I suppose if you'll be in Cherokee, you could visit your sister in Bryson City," she suggests. She means my aunt Palm Rae. We don't see much of her because her husband is mayor, and "a very busy man." "We could look into that," Daddy says. "And what does Lyndie's mother say?" Lady asks. Lady knows Ma has no opinion how I come or go. Ma started having headaches last spring when Daddy was let go from his work. They've gotten worse since we moved in with Lady and Grandpa Tad. Ma has already relocated from the parents' room into a smaller room down the hall. When she's not at her new job at Miller's Department Store, she stays holed up in that room chewing on Bayer aspirins. Lady is stalling, conjuring up one last objection. A shimmer of doubt passes through her ice-blue eyes. "Mama," Daddy says. "We'll be all right." Say yes, I pray silently. Please . If Lady wins this battle, how will I fight her on the next?  It feels like forever before Lady sighs and her shoulders relax a notch. "I don't like this a bit." "Duly noted," Daddy says. "We appreciate your concern." I want to throw victory air-punches. But I am doing my best to look unimpeachable and dignified, like old Fayette Hawkins. "You head right home after, you hear me, son? You leave tomorrow morning. I want you back before the sun sets." Lady points to her wall calendar. "Back the same day . Saturday, September 7, 1985," she says meaningfully to Daddy, enunciating all the numbers. "Lyndie needs to unpack her school clothes and get settled in." "Yes, ma'am!" Daddy barks. He offers me his pinky finger. We shake on our victory. And I feel my whole insides beginning to unfurl. Holy Hallelujah! Me and Daddy together again in his El Camino, aka the Blue Bullet! Come tomorrow, we'll be heading down the wide-open road to Freedom From Lady. "Promise me," Lady says. "You'll get home before dark." "Okay, okay, okay," I say. "We'll be home before dark. We promise." Excerpted from The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins by Gail Shepherd All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.