How can such beautiful writing portray such darkness, despair, and violence. David Joy has created a vivid and alive place - in reality a cesspool ofHow can such beautiful writing portray such darkness, despair, and violence. David Joy has created a vivid and alive place - in reality a cesspool of hopelessness- in the mountains of North Carolina. He has populated it with unforgettable characters from Charlie McNeely (brutal and ruthless meth dealer) to his son Jacob. The story is told in Jacob's heartbreaking voice - an 18-year-old boy with a preordained destiny, who wants desperately to find a way out, to make a life with the girl he has loved his whole life. Jacob's glimpses of hope and redemption hurdle toward the dark world controlled by his father at every twist and turn. Murder, betrayal, unrelenting violence - all wrapped in an amazing literary voice. Southern and Appalachian grit at its very darkest and very best. Jacob McNeely is a character that I will not soon forget and his story will haunt me for a long time.
If violence and language disturb you, this would be a good book to skip....more
I love what Tom Franklin does with Mississippi! I loved his "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" and now I've spent some time with bootleggers, revenuers,I love what Tom Franklin does with Mississippi! I loved his "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" and now I've spent some time with bootleggers, revenuers, and saboteurs in this southern state. "The Tilted World" is set against the great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Franklin's fictional Hobnob, Mississippi, is home to Jessie and Dixie Clay Holliver, the best moonshiners around. Jessie is a bonafide slimy dandy with his fancy coats and hats, strutting around making money hand over fist while Dixie Clay minds the still producing the Black Lighting. Dixie Clay's life has not lived up to its promise with the good-looking Jessie, and her baby recently died leaving a hole she cannot fill. Enter Ingersoll and Ham, two revenue agents sent by J. Edgar Hoover to find out what happened to two other agents sent to Hobnob to crack the moonshining operation there.
While the town fights the raging river with sandbags to shore up the levees, Ingersoll and Ham's search for their fellow agents turns to a search for saboteurs with stolen Army explosives who would blow up the levees to divert flood waters from the wealthier New Orleans downriver.
Excitement, vividly drawn characters, and history that comes alive are all wrapped in Franklin's beautiful prose. I fell into the story and didn't come up for air til it was finished....more
This is not an earth-shattering book in any way. So much is so predictable from the moment a character appears on the page. Could there be any doubt wThis is not an earth-shattering book in any way. So much is so predictable from the moment a character appears on the page. Could there be any doubt who Tandi will end up with? Could there be any doubt what the fate of the beautiful old house will be? Yet there are those letters discovered in beautiful boxes in Iola Anne Poole's closet after she dies. Those revealing and poignant letters to a father that were never mailed and that turned out to be not intended for a Father in this world. Those letters that revealed a life lived in faith and service that had so much to teach a struggling and lost (in so many ways) mother, in flight with her two children from a nightmare life with a controlling husband. Tandi Jo Reese isn't so much a complex character as she is just a sympathetic woman looking to find her way. Something about this simple story touched me in a feel-good way and I loved the idea of the prayer boxes. I wasn't really aware that this was a Christian fiction book until I got into it - not necessarily my cup of tea. But I found myself enjoying it for the heartwarming little story it was. And the fact that it was set in the Carolina's touched by southern fiction nerve!...more
Yes, I have a natural draw to books about the South and probably can't be counted on for an unbiased opinion when it comes to books with this setting.Yes, I have a natural draw to books about the South and probably can't be counted on for an unbiased opinion when it comes to books with this setting. But even on top of that, I loved this book! Ora Lee Beckworth is a fabulous character, full of flaws, humor, spirit, and an unfailing sense of her past and her part in the story she weaves about Eddie, the Pee-can man. Looking back 25 years to her world of north Florida in 1976, Ora's narration is full of heartbreak for what happens to little Gracie and the web of lies woven around the event because of the time and place. Alongside the heartbreak is the heartwarming awakening of Ora Lee to what family might really mean and to the world that her black maid Blanche and her family inhabit. Ora Lee is a product of her environment and quite naïve about much of what blacks are experiencing. But she is able to find glimpses of herself and the role she plays in perpetrating this environment and find ways to redeem herself as best she can. A wonderful story about why an old man dies in prison and why an old southern lady feels compelled to set the record straight about him. ...more
No, I'm not a fan of short stories. I want more time to get to know my characters and I want a clear resolution that most short stories don't seem toNo, I'm not a fan of short stories. I want more time to get to know my characters and I want a clear resolution that most short stories don't seem to deliver. No, I don't relish stories about abject poverty and what it can do to families and children. But...yes, I love what Ron Rash does with his Appalachian region. His beautiful prose put me right in the middle of a slice of Appalachian life, then he extracted me and left his people to their lives. An old couple run out of their house into a dilapidated mobile home by a meth addict son and his friends (Back of Beyond). A young boy escaping the reality of his meth addicted parents into a small crashed plane inhabited by 2 corpses (The Ascent). Robbing Confederate graves for memorabilia that will bring good money to care for a dying mother (Dead Confederates). Somehow Rash was able to engage me with his characters in an extremely short time and to make me feel and taste their lives. Of the twelve stories, the only one that didn't quite grab me by the heart was The Woman Who Believed in Jaguars - OK but not with the power of the other 11 stories in the collection. Intense, unsettling, and addictive!...more
Mary Alice Monroe succeeded in plopping me down right in the middle of the South Carolina Low Country and its shrimpers. The structure of the story haMary Alice Monroe succeeded in plopping me down right in the middle of the South Carolina Low Country and its shrimpers. The structure of the story hangs on one fateful day in the life of shrimper Bud Morrison. He makes the decision to head out on his own after his friend and deckhand doesn't show up in the morning. As resulting events progress, the story of a marriage, a town and an industry in trouble emerges.
It took a while for the characters to work their way into my literary heart but as their stories revealed their complexity and human frailties, I became more and more involved in their lives and what would happen to them as they faced their guilt, their jealousies, and what it means to forgive....more
This legal thriller is in NO way another To Kill a Mockingbird, as some have hinted. Justice, Mississippi is a small southern town where in 1964 a braThis legal thriller is in NO way another To Kill a Mockingbird, as some have hinted. Justice, Mississippi is a small southern town where in 1964 a brave lawyer, Coop Lindsay, consents to defend a black man accused of murdering a white girl. But Coop is not Atticus Finch and there is no Scout telling this story. That being said, it did keep my interest in spite of a plot that is a little too convoluted and made even more so by the addition of the 2014 story of Coop's grandson who returns to Justice to clear up the mysteries left behind from the 1964 story. The characters seemed a little too stereotypical and therefore too flat to make this a great book....more
Secrets of southern families are always the best kind. This book had plenty of those plus some memorable characters. After her father's sudden death,Secrets of southern families are always the best kind. This book had plenty of those plus some memorable characters. After her father's sudden death, 12-year old Ibby (short for Liberty) Bell is dropped off in New Orleans at the home of a grandmother she has never seen by a mother that is anxious to get away. Ibby is confronted by a houseful of these memorable characters. Grandma Fannie is every bit the eccentric southern lady with a past. Queenie the quintessential black maid and cook. Dollbaby, Queenie's daughter, has her own story plus a 12-year-old daughter of her own.
The story begins in the turbulent 60's and follows Ibby through age 20. The story had all the elements of a book I would love. But somehow it fell just short of the mark for me. There were many instances where the dialog sounded stilted and out of character - it seemed especially uneven where Ibby was concerned. Her whole character seemed to be inconsistent. And some of the historical backdrop (lunch counter sit-ins, Vietnam War protests and the like) often seemed too awkwardly integrated into the story.
I did enjoy the book, just didn't fall in love with it....more
This book had two things going for it with me: the southern setting and the story pace that kept me ready to read to find out where we were going. TheThis book had two things going for it with me: the southern setting and the story pace that kept me ready to read to find out where we were going. The setting wasn't as strongly southern as I like, but the small town atmosphere and the deep family secrets kept the hint of the South alive. The story is told in alternating chapters by Cassie (a young woman who uses the unexpected inheritance of a broken down house in Tennessee to escape an unhappy life in New York City) and Constance Clyde (Cassie's grandmother). Cassie arrives in Sweetwater to a not-so-warm welcome by relatives she hasn't seen since her Mom's death when she was 3. The mysterious circumstances of the death from a car accident while riding with Cassie's grandfather haven't been fully explained, and Cassie becomes as determined to reveal the secrets as her grandmother is to keep them hidden. The love interest seems a little out of place and doesn't really advance the story at all, but I enjoyed a lot Cassie's search for her own life and closure from her past, plus the author's nod to the power of forgiveness....more
The work of the Tennessee Valley Authority to bring electricity and progress to rural Tennessee kind of tantalizes me. I once saw a model town they buThe work of the Tennessee Valley Authority to bring electricity and progress to rural Tennessee kind of tantalizes me. I once saw a model town they built in which to relocate people in order to dam rivers to produce this electricity, and it looked like a rather Stepford wifey perfect kind of place - eerie. This novel is set around the TVA's project to dam a river called Long Man in rural eastern Tennessee in 1936 and what this means for the farmers along its banks. The town of Yuneetah will be flooded under the reservoir created by the dam. The story opens with just one day remaining before the river rises to claim the town and most of the poverty-stricken residents have been relocated to jobs to the north. The one holdout is Annie Clyde Dodson who wants to preserve the heritage of her family land for her 3-year-old daughter Gracie. As Annie Clyde fights the inevitable and fights her husband about moving north, a storm rages whose rain will hasten the final flooding. And then Gracie is discovered missing! The characters are slowly developed around the search for the missing child: Amos (the one-eyed drifter who was raised in the area and has mysteriously chosen this moment to reappear); Silver (Annie Clyde's mountain hermit aunt who watches events from above); Beulah (the mountain woman who raised Amos and reads bones she keeps in a pouch around her neck); and Sheriff Ellard Moody (who is determined to protect his flock until the last one is out safe but who has secrets of his own that haunt him from the past).
Greene's writing is beautiful and lyrical and her descriptions of the natural world in the Appalachian region enveloped me: the river was a living character and I could smell and touch the life along its banks. So much more loss was at stake than solely the child and I was caught up in the desolation and desperation of these vivid characters.
Probably a solid 4, but a 5 for me because of the Appalachian bias factor!...more
With so many of my favorite elements (Ozark mountain holler setting, family secrets and mysteries, determined female protagonist) this should have graWith so many of my favorite elements (Ozark mountain holler setting, family secrets and mysteries, determined female protagonist) this should have grabbed and held me. And it did at first. I was totally caught up in the parallel stories of current day Lucy whose childhood friend Cheri suddenly disappeared and Lila, Lucy's beautifully exotic mother who disappeared herself when Lucy was 2 years old. I was loving how the author built the mystery of the two disappearances and pulled the threads together as Lucy pried deeper into the secrets of the small poverty stricken area, her Uncle Crete, and the women in the community (Birdie, Ransomne). The book was on its way to a solid 5. But somewhere in the second half I lost my enchantment. I'm not opposed to dark stories, and I've seen this book compared to one of my dark favorites, Gone Girl. But I lost interest in the characters as their dark sides were exposed and were still ignored and kept hidden. Humanity at its worst. ...more