College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Full Title of Thesis or Dissertation

Relief Is the Thing with Teeth

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree



regional, Ozarks, folklore, sisterhood, coming of age


Relief, Missouri is the kind of small town that a person can get stuck in. 16-year-old Cat has other plans—she's going to skip town just like her mother did years ago. She just has to wait for the right time to break it to her best friend, 15-year-old Vera. (And the new crush she's developed on Vera's mother, the enigmatic town healer Jonnie, isn't making things any easier.) Vera is a girl with a lot of responsibilities: when she isn't boiling, flaying, and chopping herbs for her mother's concoctions, she's maintaining excellent grades and studying for her upcoming Conversion, the mysterious ritual she must undertake in the St. Francois mountains, deep in Ozark country. When Cat’s on-again-off-again girlfriend goes missing after a camping trip, Vera suspects this is just another disappearance in a long string, dating back decades, though no one in town seems to recall any details. Vera vows to solve the mystery, while Cat’s life is falling apart at the seams. Not only has Mel gone missing, but Cat’s receiving strange postcards from her absent mother, and her fixation with Jonnie has taken an insidious turn. As suspicions wrench Vera and Cat further and further away from each other, the girls must decide what they’re willing to do to protect one another, even if it means the destruction of their friendship, their town, and quite possibly their very futures.