The Virgin of Small Plains

The Virgin of Small Plains

A Novel

Book - 2006
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Small Plains, Kansas, January 23, 1987: In the midst of a deadly blizzard, eighteen-year-old Rex Shellenberger scours his father's pasture, looking for helpless newborn calves. Then he makes a shocking discovery: the naked, frozen body of a teenage girl, her skin as white as the snow around her. Even dead, she is the most beautiful girl he's ever seen. It is a moment that will forever change his life and the lives of everyone around him. The mysterious dead girl--the "Virgin of Small Plains"--inspires local reverence. In the two decades following her death, strange miracles visit those who faithfully tend to her grave; some even believe that her spirit can cure deadly illnesses. Slowly, word of the legend spreads. But what really happened in that snow-covered field? Why did young Mitch Newquist disappear the day after the Virgin's body was found, leaving behind his distraught girlfriend, Abby Reynolds? Why do the town's three most powerful men--Dr. Quentin Reynolds, former sheriff Nathan Shellenberger, and Judge, Tom Newquist--all seem to be hiding the details of that night? Seventeen years later, when Mitch suddenly returns to Small Plains, simmering tensions come to a head, ghosts that had long slumbered whisper anew, and the secrets that some wish would stay buried rise again from the grave of the Virgin. Abby--never having resolved her feelings for Mitch--is now determined to uncover exactly what happened so many years ago to tear their lives apart. Three families and three friends, their worlds inexorably altered in the course of one night, must confront the ever-unfolding consequences in award-winning author Nancy Pickard's remarkable novel of suspense. Wonderfully written and utterly absorbing, The Virgin of Small Plains is about the loss of faith, trust, and innocence . . . and the possibility of redemption.
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, c2006.
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780345470997
Branch Call Number: MYSTERY PICKARD
Characteristics: 335 pages ; 25 cm.


From Library Staff

2009 Kansas Reads selection. This murder mystery, set in rural Kansas, includes a little magical realism.

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Oct 10, 2019

I listened to the book on tape. It was great. Suspenseful. Satisfying. Surprising. The narrator added a lot with her accents.

Mar 23, 2012

Great story taking place in rural Kansas. The death of an unidentified woman in 1987 remains a mystery in 2004. Several pillars of the community know more than they are saying. Meanwhile the grave of the "virgin" has become a focus of pilgrims looking for miracles. I have not read any of Pickard's mystery series but her stand-alones (this one and the Scent of Rain and Lightning) have been absolutely fantastic.

Jun 03, 2011

Nancy Pickard is a Master story teller. I am hooked. I was instantly transported into the story of Abby & Mitch. She honored the unique beauty of our plains state in a timeless way which was wonderful and enriched the story. I will in the future be a loyal fan eagerly awaiting your next novel.

May 17, 2011

June 2011 bookclub read

May 06, 2010

Mystery of a seeming unnamed girl's death during a blizzard in the Flint Hills of Kansas has repercussions in the lives of three families torn apart by the tragedy, yet seemingly loyal to one another. Action shifts from 1987 when principal characters are in high school to 2004 when they are in careers of their own.

Well done and great sense of place for me who grew up in that part of Kansas.

hermlou Mar 09, 2010

A young woman is found dead in a blizzard, and a young man is sent away to school by his parents. The young woman is not identified and is buried in a grave which people visit for healing. The reader gets to know the townspeople and the victim, and everyone appears guilty at times. Who murdered her and why? It's a classic mystery in a Kansas setting.


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