This is historical fiction that gives an account of the long running feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys in the hills of West Virginia and Kentucky. Seven-year-old Fanny is the youngest daughter of Ranel and Sarah McCoy. She doesn't understand why her family hates the Hatfields and is told the grudge goes back a long way. With a herd of brothers and sisters Fanny realizes that adults can be “plumb” stupid at times.
Fanny gets help from a animal beast that lives in the woods. Yeller Thing is a cross between a bear and a very ugly dog. He smells and when he comes around She is the only one that can see him. The wind blows harder and with each appearance Yellow Thing brings a warning that something is going to happen. Fanny's mother believes her haunts are not uncommon and she has known others with the gift of sight.
Ranel runs his household like on a tight ship his word is law. Sarah is overly religious and doesn't do a lot to try and dissuade her husband or sons from fighting. Guns are ever ready in the event a Hatfield comes at any McCoy the wrong way.
Fanny's favorite sister is Roseanna “Ro” is the pretties girl in three counties and has been secretly seeing one of the enemy. Johnse Hatfield is as handsome as Ro is pretty and they want to marry despite the history of bad blood between their families.
Fanny will do anything for Ro and is the only person that knows she intends to run off with Johnse on election day. Even though the Hatfields run the scene in Virginia they come down to Kentucky to keep up on things as a posse when elections are held.
Ro leaves with Johnse against Fanny's wishes. She's in love and already twenty-one and single when most girls get married at sixteen. Ranel and her brothers take this as an act of treason on her part and Fanny isn't sure what is going to happen to her sister or their family.
While the couple wants to be married Johnse's father Devil Anse will not grant permission, Johnse is only twenty. Ro has moved in with the Hatfields disgracing her family and living in shame. When a wedding is not allowed to take place she goes to live with her aunt.
Her mother wants her to come home and Ranel has already decided that his wayward daughter can stay away since in his mind she has no regard for family in.
The oldest sister is Alafair has always had it in for Fanny and abuses her physically. She's tried to kill the little girl at least three times. The last time she held Fanny's head under the water pump and her parents sent Fanny off to stay a while with her brother Tolbert and his wife Mary.
Alafair's bad attitude is due to Ro being the prettiest and Fanny being her favorite. Alafair is a healer and as religious as her mother. She has a horrible mean streak though and sense of always being right and knowing what is best for everyone. Sarah is in ill health and as the oldest girl, Alafair takes over as many of her mother's responsibilities as possible.
The sons all know how to shoot and fighting is what they know. Since Ranel encourages this behavior they aim to protect their family name at all costs.
Ro learns she is pregnant and shares her new found information with Fanny when she visits at her aunt's home. Ro swears Fanny to secrecy and Fanny encourages her to tell Johnses as soon as possible. He is allowed to visit Ro but cannot enter her aunt's home.
A pregnancy can't be hid forever and when Fanny's older brother figures out that Ro is pregnant he and Fanny have a discussion. He tells is mother and she Sarah goes to visit Ro. They talk and Sarah is happy about the prospect of a baby, but remains guarded about the father.
While Ro was with the Hatfields she started to make a coffin quilt something that the Hatfields and many during the era did to honor family. Fanny hates the quilt sewn with tiny coffins and and names of family members. She views it as a bad omen. The McCoys make bright colored quilts as part of a new brides dowry, something that represents new life.
Ro has a baby girl who only lives nine months. She takes ill with the measles and dies when she catches a cold on top of the illness. The anguish is too much for Ro to bear. Johnses is gone and now her baby girl is dead.
When Alafair takes ill with typhoid fever, Fanny is asked to fetches Ro. Despite the sisters poor relationship Ro doesn't hesitate to move home to care for her sister. Soon Alafair is up and bossy as ever. She goes right back to blaming Ro for tearing the family apart.
Johnses has picked up with another McCoy and this time he marries. His father doesn't argue because the girl stands her ground. They have a son and Johnses goes on the nut drinking and fighting. He beats his wife's brother and threatens her.
At the next election two years later another fight breaks out and shots are fired. Three of Fanny's brothers are hauled off to jail. They go because a McCoy is a judge and they know they won't do time. They don't know that they will be moved to Virginia where they won't get a fair trial.
Sarah begs a senior Hatfield for the release of her sons. Her husband and all of her sons find begging the Hatfields for anything totally beneath them. They would have preferred for her to get word to her husband who was away seeking counsel for his family to handle it.
When the sons are shot to death including Tolbert (Fanny's favorite) in cold blood by Hatfields the family blames Sarah. The younger son who actually fired the gun did not go with his brothers and blamed himself. He freezes to death sitting at the backyard grave site of his fallen brothers.
When it looks like enough grief has come to the McCoys the house is ambushed by Hatfields. Alafair is killed and the house burned to the ground.
They build a smaller less desirable house and Ro is deteriorating from the inside out due to the grief she started by running off with Johnses. Fanny gets a note from her sister Trinvilla's father-in-law a preacher who buries and marries Hatfields and McCoys but stays out of the fighting. It is from Johnses he wants to see Ro.
Fanny makes a decision not to give the note to Ro, she believes it will cause more killing to take place. Within a month Ro is dead, she simply couldn't live with all that had happened.
Fanny decides to attend normal teaching school and see what the world has to offer. She's only sixteen in years, but has witnessed things many adults don't ever see. The Hatfields and the McCoys had been at war for generations and Fanny believed there had to be a better way to live.
Best part of story, including ending:
I thought the story was very interesting especially being told from the viewpoint of a seven-year-old.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Fanny decides to go to teaching school and break the cycle of violence by doing something different.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked that Fanny refused to settle.