Billy May Platte is a half Irish, half Cherokee Appalachian woman who learned the hard way that 1940s West Virginia was no place to be different. As Billy May explains, “We was sheltered in them hills. We didn’t know much of nothin’ about life outside of them mountains. I did not know the word lesbian; to us, gay meant havin’ fun and queer meant somethin’ strange.” In 1945, when Billy May was fourteen years old and orphaned, three local boys witnessed an incident in which Billy May’s sexuality was called into question. Determined to teach her a lesson she would never forget, they orchestrated a brutal attack that changed the dynamics of the tiny coal mining village of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia forever. Everyone, from Gerald Smith, the elderly owner of Smith’s General Store, to Sue Ann Leary, the spoiled daughter of the town’s only doctor, to Corinne Pruitt, Billy May’s childhood friend, was affected by the event in ways they could never have anticipated.
Thirty years after the brutal attack, living in solitude on top of Crutcher Mountain, Billy May discovers the hideout of a young girl – a girl who just happens to be the daughter of one of the boys who attacked Billy May so long ago. No one knows better than Billy May the telltale signs of abuse, and she must quickly make a decision. Will she withdraw into the solitude in which she has lived since the horrific attack, or will she risk everything to save the girl from a similar fate? Billy May’s choices will once again change not only her own future, but the future of Cedar Hollow as well, and certainly the future of the young girl.
Billy May tells us her story in her own words, as she lays dying in a hospice in Huntington, West Virginia in the spring of 2010. “From the top of my mountain, I seen that girl runnin’,” she remembers, “and I understood even then that my decisions might very well be the death of me.”
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