'How about we toss a coin? Heads, it's west and a lift. Tails, it's still west, but no lift.'

James is heading into the country on his first teacher-training round when a mysterious girl asks him for a ride. Sophie has him all worked out: 'You live with your parents and they bought you this car, and a very nice car it is too...' At first James can't see past her wild hair and attitude, but then Sophie trusts him with a secret she's been keeping too long.

Steven Herrick masterfully reveals the essence of his characters in this tough and tender story about opening up to love and living a life that's true. Black Painted Fingernails is a captivating novel by the author of By the River and other popular, award-winning books.

Two young adults meet on the road and find themselves with renewed purpose in this contemporary import. James is a student teacher traveling to his first assignment in a country town, but he puts his dreams (are they his dreams, he wonders, or his parents'?) on hold to give a beautiful hitchhiker a ride. Sophie, the hitchhiker, is returning home to her father and brothers after years of aimless wandering and missed connections, seeking closure, reconciliation, and a voice to express the secrets she has been carrying. James and Sophie bond through their shared uncertainty and begin a sweet and healing romance. James and Sophie narrate in honest, plain voices, but Herrick occasionally brings in the viewpoints of other characters; while this adds a deeper, though perhaps unnecessary, layer with James' parents, it distracts with one-off characters who exist only to provide backstory. This philosophical coming-of-age tale has a gentle message about making life meaningful by letting go of worries and regret, though it doesn't stand out too far from other similar tales. Krista Hutley. Booklist Online 06/11/2012
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