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Fair and Tender Ladies
Lee Smith
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Fair and Tender Ladies

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  4,720 ratings  ·  455 reviews
Ivy Rowe, Virginia mountain girl, then wife, mother, and finally Mawmaw," never strays far from her home-but the letters she writes take her across the country and over the ocean. Writing "to hold onto what's passing," she tells stories that are rich with the life of Appalachia in words that are colloquial, often misspelled, but always beautiful.

From childhood, when teac
ebook, 368 pages
Published July 5th 2011 by Penguin Group (USA) (first published 1988)
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JG (The Introverted Reader)
I'm an Appalachian mountain girl. I felt like I knew Ivy from the first sentence. She truly seemed to come to life on the pages. I came along a few generations after her time, but I felt like she could be one of my grandmothers. She talked the way I probably still talk :-) Education was important to her, and she was very smart, but she never really got a chance. I guess, really, I felt like I could have been reading family history. That says a lot about a novel.

Re-read June 28, 2009

There's not a
I think that maybe I love Ivy Rowe more than any character I've read. The reader meets Ivy as a child and grows old with her. She's a natural-born writer, so the story is told in epistolary style through the letters Ivy is forever writing to her friends and family. Ivy believes she yearns to see the world, but as her life progresses and she has opportunities to escape the poverty of her Appalachian upbringing, she discovers that the pull of home and family are stronger than that of travel and ad ...more
This novel is one of my favorite books of all time. Polly Hollar gave it to me in college with two lines from the book inscribed in the cover: "Slow down, slow down, this is the taste of spring" and "I have walked in my body like a queen." It's an epistolary book that appears as a compilation of all the letters written by a poor Appalachian woman named Ivy Rowe throughout her lifetime. Some letters are to herself, a pen pal, or to individuals who will never receive them. Some letters are to othe ...more
Oct 16, 2013 Cheryl rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of Southern Literature
I borrowed this book from the library of the mountain town where Lee Smith grew up--my first library book in quite a while. There I was, on my first trip to the library, wandering aisles and I ran across sectioned-off areas with Lee Smith's works. But of course. And I finished this book in one sitting.

Oh, Ivy Rowe--what a fascinating character. She is raised in the hollers of the mountains by a father who is too sick to work, and a mother who gave up a comfortable life to raise a family. At the
Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith is an enchanting epistolary (told through letters) novel about a life. There is not one specific antagonist or event that this novel is centered on, instead it is centered on the heroine, Ivy Rowe, and the events of her life as they unfold through letters she writes to family and friends. The story begins a few years into the 1900's when Ivy is 12 years old writing about her life to a hoped for pen-pal, and continures into the 1970's as Ivy writes to friends ...more
Donna Brown
This is a good book. Maybe even a very good book. But it is a long book. since it covers a woman's lifetime, I suppose it has a right to be, but sometimes it drags. others it skips quickly through some seemingly important parts of her life, particularly births and children's early years, without a backward glance. And there are, literally, hundreds of characters. I think one mark of a really good author is, when referring to a long lost character, the ability with a few words to remind the reade ...more
I really didn't like this book. I just thought that the themes of sex and death were way overdone. The main character has some personality, but her focus in life, and thus the focus of the book, was just too strange. I didn't get it.

I did like how the story was told in all letters. I thought that made an interesting forum. And I LOVED the "accent" you got from the writings. I just didn't like the plot or point.
Really 4.5 stars.

A couple years ago I fell in love with Lee Smith’s Appalachian storytelling in Oral History. I have finally returned to her with “Fair and Tender Ladies”. The book is penned by Ivy Rowe in letters to various friends and relatives, beginning with her preteen years during the WWI era. She loves to read but has not yet developed her spelling skills, so the first 70 pages or so took a bit longer to read as I ciphered out her words and many colloquialisms. But from the get go Ivy is
I like this book because I grew up in Appalachia. This is a beautiful picture of life in the mountains, with a musical quality that is reminiscent of the region and draws you in.
Thank you Sassy, for mentioning how much you loved this book, it was wonderful.

The entire book is written in letters to various people. Ivy starts out as a young, bright, but mostly uneducated girl living in the Appalachian mountains. Her life story unfolds through letters and you're left with a whole character who is as real as any living person.

I also enjoyed watching her spelling and grammar improve throughout her life, but also noticing that she never stuck with what she knew. She'd catch t
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Fair and Tender Ladies is one of those books you would have a dog-eared, tea-stained, cracked spine copy of on your shelf that you wouldn't lend to anyone, its that special.

From the first few pages, even paragraphs, I could tell this was quickly going to become a favorite book. And I was not disappointed, right down to the last word of the book.
The story is told via letters to friends/family from Ivy Rowe, who starts out as a young girl in the mountains of Appalachia. The letters and the languag
Feb 06, 2008 Diana rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Appalachian culture
I went from reading about Tudor England to this book. I have to admit it was hard going at first, but once I did it was hard to put down. I definitely would include this book in my list of favorites up there with Tree grows in Brooklyn. I am looking forward to reading her other books now. The hard part is that I have one more Tudor England book to read...I don't it's going to be hard to pick that up again. Lee Smith's characters are so much more lovely. Lee Smith puts so much depth in ...more
First potential obstacle for the reader is the author's attempt to capture the main character Ivy by her speech: ". . . the moon come up, the biggest full moon come up just like it was any other nigt in the world, so ligt and lovely it like to took my breth. I knowed it wuld shine no matter what, and this give me a turn. The moon dont give a damn, I said to myself, and it dont." If you can get past this I think you will enjoy the story of Ivy's life in western Virginia, land of hills and hollers ...more
We read Fair and Tender Ladies for my book club, and I must say that the novel grew on me . I liked the main character from the get go--it was the epistolary structure that slowed me down. The dialect and the spelling was difficult to move through. I read the first couple of chapters and put it down for a week. But then, the rhythm of her letters, and the unraveling of Ivy's life, drew me in.

Ivy is spunky and smart, one of nine siblings living with her parents on a mountain farm in Sugar Fork,
Narrator Ivy Rowe's horrific spelling and grammar gave me a headache while reading the first half of this book. A more talented author could have conveyed Ivy's Appalachian accent and dialect without resorting to a cheap trick like that, but no such luck with this book's writer. Anyway, Ivy lives with her sickly parents and a boatload of interchangeable siblings in Sugar Fork, Somewhere in Appalachia. Ivy's apparently bright and her teachers take an interest in her, but she gets herself proudly ...more
Kate Lawrence
This satisfying novel of a woman's life in rural Appalachia during the first half of the 20th century rings so true that one would think she was a real person. We follow the story of Ivy Rowe in the first person and entirely in the form of letters, which enhances the realism and prevents too much detail. I was reminded somewhat of a more recent novel, The Guernsey Literary Society, which employs the same format, but Fair and Tender Ladies is better. Ivy meets the poverty and limitations of her l ...more
Rhonda Browning White
Fair and Tender Ladies is written entirely from the viewpoint of protagonist Ivy Rowe Fox, through her letters to family and friends. The letters in the first part of the novel are written with many misspellings, as Ivy is but a child—-around twelve years old—-at that point in the story. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s certainly worth the effort. As Ivy matures and becomes better educated, so does the quality of her writing, though the entire epistolary novel remains true to Appalach ...more

Lee Smith. The name for me evokes memories of long days spent happily lost in books that speak to the minds and hearts of mountain girls everywhere. Oral History, Family Linen, Black Mountain Breakdown, The Devil's Dream, Saving Grace, and my particular favorite, Fair and Tender Ladies. I know so many of the women in these books, and I have been one or two of them. Thought provoking, funny, tender, haunting; each book has a meaning far beyond the story. The richness of detail about mountain life
Lee Smith (female) is the author of The Devil’s Dream, one of my favorite books from adolescence. Like so many of my books from that period, it’s a remaindered hardback I bought at Bookland in Corbin, Kentucky. The bookstore is no longer there, but whenever I pass Belk Simpson on 25E, I remember it. Bookland was situated to the left of one of the entrances to that southern chain department store.

Anyway, this is an epistolary novel. It begins by chronicling the life of Ivy Rowe, a girl living in
Jul 11, 2008 Lynn rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lynn by: Ashley Andrews
I really enjoyed this book. Once you got hooked into wondering what would happen to Ivy next you just didn't want to put it down. The whole time while reading it I had this feeling of da'javu. I'm not sure whether it's because I already read it in this life, another one, or it's resonating with part of my soul. I'm going to mail my copy to my mother in law because I really think she'll like it too.

I'd recommend this for people who feel like even normal life is a nonstop adventure but that someti
I almost gave this four stars, but there were a few things that bothered me about it enough for it to only warrant three stars. I really enjoyed the beginning of the book and loved Ivy as a child and young girl. I wasn't such a fan once she started giving it up. I don't like books with sex in them, but I did want to know what would happen with Ivy so there were a few scenes that I tried to skim over, when I probably should have just stopped reading.
I didn't like how it was hard to keep up with
My sister, Pamela, sent this to me as a birthday gift. I LOVED IT!!!! The pacing is so organic, believable and rich. I care about the characters and Ivy Rowe is so whole, so human. I love her with all of her life foibles and precious discoveries. This book is a gem. The fact that Ivy loves Jane Eyre and compares herself to that character on many occasions is another true testament to how much I love her!
And, by the way,
Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle are the authors whose work was adapted in 'Good "
Lee Smith’s novel, ‘Fair and Tender Ladies,’ exceeds both ‘fair’ and ‘tender. It is a gently told, very readable and enjoyable ‘family history’ of the really hardscrabble life of deep Appalachia—from dirt-poor dirt farming to lung-crushing coal mining—during the first-half of the twentieth century.

The literary device of telling the story exclusively through the moving letter writing of its main character, Ivy Rowe, is very effective. It gives the tale the gossipy, warm and personal feel of a ge
James Klagge
Not great, but very good. It is immersed in a culture I experienced a bit of, presenting it in a fairly real, but perhaps too positive a light. The book is a series of letters written by one woman over the course of her life. It is an interesting approach, though somewhat unrealistic at times--sometimes there is more narration than a letter could plausibly contain. This is the first book by Lee Smith I have read. Makes for a nice comparison to Sharyn McCrumb, who mines the same veins. McCrumb wo ...more
This story was fascinating. It reminded me of "These is my Words. by Nancy Turner. The setting is different, but the child's need to express herself, no matter how bad the grammar or the spelling portrays a yearning that can not be quenched. Because of the grammar and spelling of a girl brought up in Appalachia, the beginning is very challenging to read. The "voice" that shines through compelled me to keep turning pages. Ivy is a character who will endure long after the last words of the book ar ...more
Sean Farmer
Aug 23, 2010 Sean Farmer rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sean by: Mildred Mullins- H.S. English teacher
Oh Lord! How could you not love Ivy Rowe? Reading this book reminds me of what it was like to sit on my Great Grandmothers porch and listen to she and her sisters remember their lives. Whenever I need to go back to that safe and warm place I always find my battered copy and read it again. This epic novel chronicles the life of a wise, loving , funny and dear mountain lass who observes the 20th century from her beloved mountain. Anyone who grew up in the southern Appalachians will fall in love wi ...more
Ms. Okes
Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith is a masterful telling of life growjng up in the Appalachian Mountains. Though set in Virginia, it could easily be the blue hills of my own home state that are described by protagonist Ivy Rowe. In fact, the colloquial grammar put me in mind early on of my own grandmother, whose accent and voice seemed to pervade the rest of the book. As someone who has been fortunate enough to read letters of my grandmother's young days going to school and courting, I feel ...more
Carmen Gwazdacz
Have you ever read a book you love so much that you know any review you write couldn't do it justice? This is that book for me. It is a tribute to all those women not to long ago that had neither the educational or travel opportunities that many of have today. The were born, raised, loved, had families, had tragedies, worked hard, lived hard all the same place and still managed to have beautiful lives and become the strong matriarchs that others looked up to. This is our protagonist, Ivy Rowe, b ...more
This had been on one of my lists for a long time and was available at the library so...
I had assumed from the title that the book was about a group of gentile southern ladies so when I realized it was an epistolary novel about the life and times of a girl in 1910 Appalachia I was momentarily taken aback. I quickly became engrossed, both by the story and the story-telling, as Kate Forbes' excellent narration brought Ivy Rowe to life.
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Growing up in the Appalachian mountains of southwestern Virginia, nine-year-old Lee Smith was already writing--and selling, for a nickel apiece--stories about her neighbors in the coal boomtown of Grundy and the nearby isolated "hollers." Since 1968, she has published eleven novels, as well as three collections of short stories, and has received many writing awards.

The sense of place infusing her
More about Lee Smith...
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“Oh, I was young then, and I walked in my body like a Queen.” 2 likes
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