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My Old True Love

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  603 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
Sheila Kay Adams brings us a novel inspired by the ballads of the English, Scottish, and Irish. These long, sad stories of heartbreak and betrayal, violence and love, have been sung for generations by the descendents of those who settled the Appalachian mountains in the 1700s. As they raised their children, they taught them first to sing, for the songs told the children ev ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 4th 2004 by Algonquin Books
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Community Reviews

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Jan 08, 2014 Dem rated it really liked it
My Old True Love by Shield Kay Adams popped up in my recommendations from Good reads and I picked it as a January sort of wild card and I am very glad I did.

This novel is set in the mountains of North Carolina and narrated with the wonderful voice of Arty Norton, mother to a large family living in the mid-late 1800s around the time of the Civil War. The story is centred on Arty's family, of hardships, love, life and the appreciation of the simple things in life like family, nature, changing seas
Apr 02, 2013 Hannah rated it really liked it
Rating Clarification: 4.5 Stars

Two things straight off:
1. The next time I get on my soapbox complaining about the quality of new release books verses those oldies which I so dearly love and champion, I need to remind myself of this unbearably beautiful and (almost) perfect novel. Had the last 15 pages played out in a slightly different way, had I not felt the end was rushed, anticlimatic and "tacked on", it would without any doubt be the best fiction I've read all year (and in a long time, to bo
Sep 09, 2013 Rick rated it it was amazing
This is why readers read. It is why we slog through a sea of mediocre to good books. It is for the pure joy that comes from reading an exquisite book like this one, one that draws you in completely, one you can't put down, one where you savor every word and feel, as if it were your own, the joy and sorrow of those characters who inhabit the book.

Open this book to any page and you will find writing that is pitch perfect in capturing the cadences and vocal patterns of the people it portrays, writi
Jan 26, 2012 Deborah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern, appalachian
A poignant story, both frank and tender, told in an Appalachian voice that rings true—that is My Old True Love: A Novel. Arty Norton Wallin (the narrator) is “mountain,” way down to the marrow of her bones, and I can’t help but think that Sheila Kay Adams is, as well. As I read, I was taken back to a time of Appalachian life and culture even older than the one that I recall—but not without the strong flavor of some Smoky Mountain kin that I do recall. Long review: The story is set in North Carol ...more
May 01, 2010 Jayna rated it liked it
AAAHHH! I stayed up until 1:00am finishing this book because I was loving it so much...but then, THE ENDING RUINED IT. It was such a disappointment. The last few books I've read have all been great reads until the last quarter- I don't know what is up with that! Anyways, this book was like a fantastic mix between "These is my words" and "Cold Mountain." The heroine is full of life and humor and I really enjoyed her wit, and you feel like you KNOW her. But the plot weakened as the climatic ending ...more
Lindsay (Everyday Is An Adventure)
Plucked right off my local library's shelves came this book and I am so glad that it caught my eye. This is the kind of book that you need to read a few times because you just know that there are so many depths to it that you couldn't possibly have caught them all the first time through.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely loved this book, but to tell the truth I had a minor love/hate relationship with it, especially in the beginning. I loved the story, I loved the characters, I loved the setting, and I lov
Oct 18, 2009 Kim rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books that I have read. It is set in the Appalachians of NC before, during and after the civil war. The way the characters speak reminds me of how my grandparents from Ararat, VA talk. I also loved all the old forgotten songs of the mountains. This book made me laugh, cry and even blush. This is a must read! Below is one of my favorite passages from the book.

That summer was hot as hell and dry as a bone. it was a constant fight to save our gardens, while the corn patches
Amy S
Jan 24, 2014 Amy S rated it really liked it

What I loved: the setting, the ballads, the character development. The family. I wish I could have heard the music.

What I didn't: the massive foreshadowing the author kept hitting me over the head with. Language and some sexuality that just didnt feel necessary and sometimes jarred me from what I was reading. I would not say the book was filled with it by any means, but it seemed to stand out to me rather than flow with the story.

Lovely story, though. Wonderful characters and I loved that
May 18, 2012 Melissa rated it it was amazing

I am a collector of Appalachian literature and this book moves to the top on my favorites list. Taking places before, during and shortly after the Civil War this story is a portrayal of mountaineers and how they were victims of the war. They had no interest in any of the issues, did not want to take either side and could only suffer great loss, which they did. Mountaineers are strong, independent , hard working folks and they were represented as such in this book. I loved he lyrical, poetic rhy
Sep 08, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it
This was a beautiful book that I've long been meaning to read. Set in the NC mountains during the Civil War, My Old True Love illustrates the everyday struggles and joys of the people. It also deftly showed how divisive the Civil War was for this region.

My favorite part about this book was Arty's voice. Sheila Kay Adams managed to write it in such a way as to make me feel like I was a friend sitting out on the porch listening to her life story. Despite the conflicts and family strife, this was a
Sean Farmer
Aug 23, 2010 Sean Farmer rated it it was amazing
One of the most heartbreakingly beautiful books I have ever read. I would compare it to Cold Mountain- but perhaps even better! ( Never thought I would say that.) The descriptions of life in the 19th North Carolina mountains is worth the read alone ( I think Ms. Adams must be a time traveler and has deigned to visit us and tell this beautiful story.) but also the English, Irish and Scottish ballads that these characters are obsessed with are haunting and beautiful. A marvelous window into Antebe ...more
Jim Ainsworth
Apr 10, 2015 Jim Ainsworth rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended by several readers of my own books and I finally got around to reading it. I’m sorry it took so long. My loyal readers know that I love southern fiction, the Civil War era, Appalachia (the places and the people), and mountain music, especially ballads. This book delivers all three. Sheila Kay Adams is a performer of Appalachian ballads and was technical director for the great film, “Songcatcher”. I often lament that writers are at a disadvantage against songwriters and ...more
Kacey Gilpin
Jan 05, 2015 Kacey Gilpin rated it really liked it
“Some people is born at the start of a long hard row to hoe. Well, I am older than God's dog and been in this world a long time and it seems to me that right from the git-go, Larkin Stanton had the longest and hardest row I've ever seen.”

This book was beautifully written in simple, vernacular language with feelings that brought me to tears many times. The narrator was both riveting and unique. The story was so full of music and beauty and sorrow that at times I didn't want to go on reading, but
A beautiful book rich with imagery, prose and music of the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. The first person pov was excellently crafted with humor and observation which sucked me right in. I am a bit disappointed that the author has just one other book to offer, I am hoping that there will be other books in the future. This book was simply magical and the storytelling was stellar which left me wanting for more.
Jan 17, 2013 Jen rated it liked it
This would have gotten 4 stars from if it hadn't been for the ending. I thought it was extremely out of character for Larkin and struck a strange and out of place note to the end of the book. Otherwise, a very readable book with a likable narrator.
Jul 09, 2010 Ruth rated it liked it
for book club, great writing, storyline was a bit slow in parts, but overall enjoyed reading it because it described the effects of the civil war on families and individuals, felt the ending was a bit abrupt and left me feeling empty
Diane Cox
Jun 19, 2012 Diane Cox rated it it was amazing
Just a lovely touching work and reminded me so of the simpler life of even fifty years ago. We have lost as much as we have gained in our electronic world of today. Reminiscent of 'Songcatcher'
RoseMary Achey
Feb 23, 2014 RoseMary Achey rated it really liked it
If you likes Cold Mountain, Serena, or Cataloochee you will like this story. We begin with a girl living outside of Asheville before the Civil War. Her family bonds are solid, led by a wise and strong grandmother-granny.

Life in this remote poor rural community during the Civil War is difficult. When the men return who have survived the war, they and their families are forever changed.

Some readers may not enjoy the use of the Appalachian vernacular, but I found it so soothing! The writing style
Laura Lulu
Apr 21, 2009 Laura Lulu rated it it was amazing
Heartwarming, heartwrenching, heartbreaking. And the narrator is wonderful--she makes the book.
Nancy Rankin
Feb 26, 2013 Nancy Rankin rated it it was amazing
An excellent book to listen to.
Oct 26, 2015 Sandra rated it really liked it
A lovely read, set in the 1840's, in the beauty and harshness of the Appalachians. I really liked this book, and the characters who speak in mountain derelict and sing the ballads that tell the stories of their arrival there, and their life afterwards. A story of two cousins, and a love that inspires their songs, for a girl named Mary.

From Amazon:
Sheila Kay Adams brings us a novel inspired by the ballads of the English, Scottish, and Irish. These long, sad stories of heartbreak and betrayal,
Elizabeth-Ann Diehl
Apr 30, 2014 Elizabeth-Ann Diehl rated it really liked it
Summary: My Old True Love takes place in the Appalachian Mountains during the mid
1800’s. The story begins with the birth of a boy named Larkin. The narrator, Arty, raises Larkin as her own son after his mother dies in childbirth. Larkin grows up with his cousin (and brother of Arty) Hackley. The boys start out as good friends but from an early age it is clear that Hackley seeks to outdo Larkin (in music, attracting women, singing, etc.) and begins to succeed. Larkin does not really seem to mind
First sentence: "Some people is born at the start of a long hard row to hoe."

Arty knows that a great deal of responsibility is in store for her when she is handed her newborn and orphaned cousin, Larkin. Arty raises him as her own child and teaches him all the old folk songs sung by the mountain people of North Carolina. She keeps an eye out for him as she begins to have children of her own and Larkin grows into a man. She knows he is destined for trouble when he falls for the same girl his cou
Zena Ryder
Nov 24, 2013 Zena Ryder rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is beautiful. The characters are well drawn and I love the writing and the story. The very end is not perfect, so I'd probably give it 4.9 stars if I could. ;) However, it's still one of my all time favourite books and I'm not sure exactly what is wrong with the ending, but it was somehow unsatisfying.

The setting of the novel is also interesting. It is set in the North Carolina mountains and the reader sees how irrelevant to most people the looming Civil War is. They are not slave hold
Jan 17, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 25, 2015 Judy rated it it was amazing
Wonderful insight into the life of poor farmers in the South just before, during and after the Civil War. As I have researched my ancestors, I have come to see how the politically powerful and wealthy of the South plunged the uninformed and content Southern families into a war that would decimate their families for generations. A great historical fiction from the perspective of one North Carolina community.
May 04, 2012 Melissa rated it really liked it
My guess is that this could be a polarizing read, a love it or hate it sort. For me, a familiar song resonated through the pages of this book. It was not just the songs that played in my head throughout the reading, but more importantly the song that it played in my heart. Set in Appalachia pre-and during the Civil War, this book portrays ordinary mountain folk with extraordinary will, wisdom, and heart that transcends formal education or cultural advancements. Written in colloquial prose with s ...more
Feb 25, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it
This excellent book takes place in the years surrounding the Civil War, and tells the story of an Appalachian family with their struggles and joys. Arty, the main character and narrator, is a young girl as the book begins. She takes charge of Larkin, the newborn child of her sister who has died in childbirth. Throughout his life Larkin is both friend and for to his uncle Harkley, and it is this dichotomy that moves the story along.
Jan 12, 2014 Beth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Oh, how I loved this book: this is one you read in a day and feel dismay as the last pages get closer and closer.
The lives of Arty Norton and her family are based on Adams' own Appalachian ties, their story is told with warmth and jibey humor and utter heartbreak--there are lines in this book that will bring tears to your eyes.
Adams' writing is simple yet vivid and her love for her characters shines through every page. Along the way, we're treated to little detours about eccentric townsfolk
Pat Mckee
Feb 01, 2014 Pat Mckee rated it it was amazing
A story of the mountain folk in a cove in Madison County during the 1800's. Sheila Kay Adams does a fine job writing in the mountain dialect about the manner in which the people lived, some of which is amazing. I felt that I was fully in touch with each character throughout the book, especially the narrator, Arty. I would not have rated this book so highly until the second half, when the county's involvement with the Civil War developed. This part historically portrayed the painful split in the ...more
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Beyond Mr. Darcy:...: April 2013: My Old True Love 5 11 May 04, 2013 07:42PM  
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Sheila Kay Adams comes from a small mountain community in Madison County, North Carolina. For seven generation her family has maintained the tradition of passing down the English, Scottish and Irish ballads that came over with her ancestors in the mid 1700’s. Sheila learned these ballads from her older relatives, primarily from her great-aunt, Dellie Chandler Norton and cousin, Cas Wallin.

In perfo
More about Sheila Kay Adams...

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“I asked Granny one time if she thought green might be God's favorite color since he'd made so many shades of it.” 9 likes
“Some people is born at the start of a long hard row to hoe. Well, I am older than God's dog and been in this world a long time and it seems to me that right from the git-go, Larkin Stanton had the longest and hardest row I've ever seen.” 5 likes
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