My Old True Love
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My Old True Love

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  428 ratings  ·  73 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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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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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

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...more

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...more
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...more
Sean Farmer
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
Diane Cox
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'
Rose Mary Achey
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...more
Laura Lulu
Heartwarming, heartwrenching, heartbreaking. And the narrator is wonderful--she makes the book.
Elizabeth-Ann Diehl
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...more
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...more
Zena Ryder
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...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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.
Beth Zovko
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...more
Pat Mckee
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
If you love the mountains and the history that lives there, you will love this story of the people who settled the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. They brought with them the stories and music of their homeland across the ocean. This story is set just prior and into the Civil War years. There are struggles, loves, sorrows and much more as the people in the story live and die in the mountains. There is much history revealed.

The words of the old songs are throughout the book and I am remin...more
One of the best books that we have read together as a couple. Worth re-reading.
-Chris and Vanessa
Elizabeth Rice
I could not seem to put the book down and I mean, at all. Shelia K. Adams' writing has honesty and integrity. The characters are normal everyday people in Appalachia who are just trying to survive in their already complicated world without the threat of a war coming.
I wish I'd read this a few years ago, before Sheila Kay Adams was a guest speaker at a work function I attended. I would've loved to tell her how much I enjoyed this book! At the time, I was enchanted by her storytelling and singing.

'My Old True Love' felt like I was once again listening to her tell stories aloud. Arty's voice was so clear and engaging, and related perfectly the beauty, sadness, and hard life of Appalachia around the Civil War. The old ballads threaded throughout added to the st...more
Aug 11, 2011 Linda rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Linda by: found on goodreads
Shelves: favorites
This is a book that speaks to the heart so deeply that it will remain some experiences in life touch has risen to the top as one of my favorites. I listened to the audio version and felt as if I was sitting at the feet of a woman who had the gift of being a very rich storyteller sharing her life with me...she is able to put into words feelings that all of us have had at some time in our lives when we have not only been speechless but unable to bare our own feelings even to ou...more
I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it were not for the narration. I felt that the character narration did not work for me. It felt way to restrictive and I just wanted another POV.

I liked Arty and wish that Adams made her love story with Zeke into something that would balance out the sadness of Larkin/Mary/Hackley. I think she could have done more with them. The songs are beautiful and fit into the story well.

This is not a HEA book. Some may even need a tissue box.

Courtney Burns
4.5 stars--five but I felt the ending was a bit abrupt. Loved the voice in this book of love and loss that takes place during the Civil War (really didn't want it to end). I felt I was there with these characters experiencing all their hopes, desires, heartbreaks, and joys right along with them. I also enjoyed the insights offered on the Civil War and life i that region. Some of the most poignant writing I have read.
I've known Sheila Adams for a long time. I've heard her sing and tell stories and I admire her for keeping songs and stories alive. I didn't know she could write, however, and this novel is wonderful whether or not you live in Appalachia. These mountains have been the backdrop for many books but this is the one that is truest to the history, songs, dialect, and traditions of the southern Appalachians.
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Beyond Mr. Darcy:...: April 2013: My Old True Love 5 10 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
More about Sheila Kay Adams...
Come Go Home with Me: Stories by 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.” 6 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.” 4 likes
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