Sort of forgettable, to tell you the truth. I remember that the woman had a hard time and I remember hating the old man they lived with, but other tha...moreSort of forgettable, to tell you the truth. I remember that the woman had a hard time and I remember hating the old man they lived with, but other than that, it's all gone.(less)
I grew up living close to my grandparents, who have a small farm. I wouldn't call myself a farm girl, because I didn't have that much to do with it, b...moreI grew up living close to my grandparents, who have a small farm. I wouldn't call myself a farm girl, because I didn't have that much to do with it, but I did help out sometimes. Coming from that background, I really enjoyed this book. Hannah reflects on her life and how things have changed, not always for the better. She's lived long enough to see her family grow away from the farm they were raised on. She hopes for the best for them, but worries about her farm and who's going to take care of it when she's gone. This seems to be what's happening in rural communities. The people are leaving and not really coming back. Instead, big, expensive gated communities are being built by people who generally have no connection with the land. Hannah's worried about it, and maybe we all should be.(less)
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 ge...moreI'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 all that much to add. This is a book that touches my heart and it's hard for me to write about those.
Ivy Rowe is this book. She's spunky, she makes mistakes, she loves, she lives, she's stubborn, she's wrong sometimes; in short, she just feels real to me in a way that very few characters do. Oh, I write fairly often about how I love this or that character, but Ivy feels like someone I know. The novel is written in a series of letters that Ivy writes to others. You get inside her head and stay there. You follow Ivy from the time she's about 10 years old on. There's a whole progression of wide-eyed optimism to teenage carelessness and invincibility to repentance to more carelessness to acceptance and reflection. I live a whole other lifetime when I read this book.
Lee Smith chose to have Ivy write in our southern Appalachian dialect and she gets it just absolutely perfect. I literally "hear" Ivy with my grandmother's voice, and I hear the the preacher Sam Russell Sage as my uncle. Ivy's sister Silvaney doesn't really speak, but she reminds me of my grandmother's sister, Sue. Do you see the connection I make to this book?
It might be a little hard to read at first because Ivy's letters are full of childish mistakes and she spells our dialect phonetically, but don't be put off by that. It gets better and I think you'll understand it anyway. But for a story about a woman who makes her share of mistakes, but lives a life worth living, pick this one up. I think you'll enjoy it. And if you happen to be from the southern Appalachians, I think you'll feel the same strong connection I do. This book has a permanent place in my heart and soul.(less)
I liked this book, I liked the writing, I liked the characters (for the most part), I like that it takes place in my part of the country, but I also l...moreI liked this book, I liked the writing, I liked the characters (for the most part), I like that it takes place in my part of the country, but I also like happy endings, so I can only give it 4 stars. Without giving anything away, the ending also felt a little bit cheesy. (less)
I checked this out from the library expecting to laugh as much as I had with the other Bill Bryson books I had read. And there were funny parts. To be...moreI checked this out from the library expecting to laugh as much as I had with the other Bill Bryson books I had read. And there were funny parts. To be perfectly honest, I think that my biggest problem with this book is that he spends what felt like quite a bit of time trash-talking North Carolina's section of the AT (the little bit that he tackled) and that's my Old Home State. If you don't like us, go home. And that's pretty much what he did. And he missed out on some really spectacular scenery and wonderful people. His loss.(less)
This is a nice little story. It doesn't have a very strong plot. It's more like the author decided to record his childhood memories and he tried to do...moreThis is a nice little story. It doesn't have a very strong plot. It's more like the author decided to record his childhood memories and he tried to do it in the form of a novel. If you grew up in the '40's or if you grew up in a rural area, you will probably enjoy reliving some of the same memories.(less)
Finally! A great book! I was on a mediocre stretch there for a while.
On Agate Hill is the story of Molly Petree, an orphan girl growing up in the Reco...moreFinally! A great book! I was on a mediocre stretch there for a while.
On Agate Hill is the story of Molly Petree, an orphan girl growing up in the Reconstruction South. The book is made up of a lot of journal entries and letters, and it begins with a young Molly telling her own story, the story of her as a "ghost girl" growing up on her uncle's plantation, Agate Hill. Then the story is picked up by the headmistress of Gatewood Academy, a sort of finishing school for girls. The headmistress, Mariah Snow, sees herself in Molly and so never trusts or likes her. The next part is picked up by one of the teachers at Gatewood, when she and Molly head off on their own. Then we have a section told by Molly's husband's cousin, telling about her married life. Then it finishes up with Molly filling in some of the blanks as she looks back on her life from her old age.
This was a great book, filled with believable characters. Molly is flawed, but very likeable. There are parts of Molly's story, and Molly herself, that I think every woman can probably relate to.
This reminded me a little of one of Lee Smith's other novels, Fair and Tender Ladies, which is one of my all-time favorite books. On Agate Hill at first felt to me like the story that would have been Ivy Rowe's if she had gone to school. But then it did become its own story. I like Fair and Tender Ladies better because I liked Ivy Rowe better than Molly, but this is still a fantastic book.(less)
Not one of my favorite Lee Smith novels, but it is still good. This one is set pretty much in my backyard, and that's always pretty cool to read about...moreNot one of my favorite Lee Smith novels, but it is still good. This one is set pretty much in my backyard, and that's always pretty cool to read about. It's the story of Grace, the daughter of a traveling, snake-handling preacher. It's also the story of the family's fall from grace and Grace's attempt to find redemption after that. I would recommend Fair and Tender Ladies to someone who wants to see what Lee Smith is all about, but this is a decent story for anyone who is already a fan.(less)
I picked this up at a local library book sale, and I really got a bargain. This is a wonderful little book. It's written by someone who grew up in my...moreI picked this up at a local library book sale, and I really got a bargain. This is a wonderful little book. It's written by someone who grew up in my area (always a bonus for me) and the setting is my area, so I can really relate to the characters. It's about a day in the life of a local school teacher, and does he have one heck of a day! Parts of the book had me laughing out loud! Don't let the title fool you--it sounds like something bright, cheery, and cheesy. I would say that the title refers more to the idea that we should each be ourselves, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. It may also refer to sort of shining a light on ignorance. Either way, I don't want to say too much, just read it if you like well-written, entertaining books that also have a message to them.(less)
I didn't like Thirteen Moons as well as Cold Mountain. This one had a little too much detail and I got bogged down. Also, I never really got the point...moreI didn't like Thirteen Moons as well as Cold Mountain. This one had a little too much detail and I got bogged down. Also, I never really got the point of the book. It didn't really feel like it went anywhere, even after I had finished it. Although I did like the last scene of the book when he gets to shoot tourists everyday. Probably a sentiment we can all relate to, no matter where we live!(less)
This was one of the better books I've read in a while (with the exception of Harry Potter, of course). The main characters were very strong, environme...moreThis was one of the better books I've read in a while (with the exception of Harry Potter, of course). The main characters were very strong, environmentally aware women that I could relate to. Even though there were really three stories going on at once, they were very skilfully interwoven into a wonderful whole. I do recommend this book.(less)
I decided to read this because Thomas Wolfe was from my area and I only had to read one short story of his for an English class. I wanted to see what...moreI decided to read this because Thomas Wolfe was from my area and I only had to read one short story of his for an English class. I wanted to see what he was all about. This is basically the slightly fictionalized story of his childhood and young adult years growing up in the mountains of North Carolina in the early 1900's.
I read the very first sentence of this book and my heart sank. So I read it again. And again. After about the fifth reading, I finally had some idea what he was trying to say and moved on. The second and third sentences blew me away. He was an amazing writer. He wrote with a richness of imagery that is hard to find.
That being said, this book was very hard to get through. Taken a paragraph or so at a time, I could appreciate the beauty of his language. But the very beauty that I admired made the actual story drag by. And I'm very story-oriented. That's one of the reasons I only gave this three stars.
The other thing that bothered me was a small vein of racism that was present throughout the book. It's not at all the point of the story, it's just there in the background. And somehow it's made worse by the fact that there doesn't seem to be any active dislike behind it. It feels like he thinks he's just stating the facts. I tried to write it off as just being a different time period, but that didn't really work for me. It wound up detracting a lot from my enjoyment of the book.
But if you think you can overlook that, and you love beautiful language, you might enjoy this one.(less)
If you've seen the movie, "Practical Magic", you know this book. It's the story of two sisters named Claire and Sydney. Claire is pretty much a reclus...moreIf you've seen the movie, "Practical Magic", you know this book. It's the story of two sisters named Claire and Sydney. Claire is pretty much a recluse in search of stability wherever she can find it, and Sydney is a wild child who has decided to change her ways for the benefit of her daughter. And, of course, she has to leave an evil boyfriend, and she's constantly worried that he will find her and their daughter. Claire and Sydney are both "Waverley women" and Waverley women seem to be the best sort of witches. Claire uses the herbs from her magic garden to work simple spells and Sydney has a gift for giving the perfect haircut. The story is about Sydney learning to accept herself and her heritage and about Claire learning that sometimes you can't control everything, but taking risks can lead to huge rewards.
I really enjoyed this book, and if it weren't for the lack of originality, I would have given it five stars. As it is, I enjoyed Garden Spells more than either the movie version or book version of Practical Magic (which didn't really have a lot to do with each other, from what I recall). (less)
Josey Cirrini is finding out that it's hard to change your reputation in a small Southern town. She's a model daughter: she's buried her own hopes and...moreJosey Cirrini is finding out that it's hard to change your reputation in a small Southern town. She's a model daughter: she's buried her own hopes and dreams and instead lives to take her mother to endless meetings, teas, and doctor's appointments. But everyone in the town still looks at her as the horrid, spoiled little rich girl who kicked their shins and stole candy from their stores. But one morning, Josey wakes up and finds the town's bad girl in her closet. Della Lee has had enough of her life and is starting over up north--just as soon as she takes a break in Josey's room. She pushes Josey to come out of her shell and to start living her life for herself.
This wasn't exactly what I expected when I started it. I was expecting a typical shy-girl-meets-handsome-guy story. But it wasn't exactly like that. This was more about finding the courage to get to know yourself. The importance of female friendships. The jealousies between mothers and daughters. Surrounding yourself with people who are good for you and cutting out the ones who are negative influences. And how you can't really have healthy relationships with others until you do have a healthy relationship with yourself. Part of me wanted more of the boy/girl stuff. But the biggest part of me is thrilled that an author tackled these subjects. We have plenty of boy/girl stories out there. We don't have enough books reminding us that other relationships are important too.
I love the way Sarah Addison Allen weaves little pieces of magic into her stories. This book had one of my favorite little magics ever. Chloe Finley, Josey's new friend, is a book magnet. Ever since she was a little girl, books have magically appeared to her when she needs them. The first time it happened, she was bored at her grandparents' farm and a book of card tricks appeared to her in the woods. When her family started noticing all these books that they hadn't bought for her, a book of simple storage solutions appeared. I just love this idea. Why can't I have that kind of magic?
I just have to include this quote that any book lover will relate to: "Books can be possessive, can't they? You're walking around in a bookstore and a certain one will jump out at you, like it had moved there on its own, just to get your attention. Sometimes what's inside will change your life, but sometimes you don't even have to read it. Sometimes it's a comfort just to have a book around. Many of these books haven't even had their spines cracked. 'Why do you buy books you don't even read?' our daughter asks us. That's like asking someone who lives alone why they bought a cat. For company, of course."
I liked this so well that I read on through all the book club questions and author interview and deleted scenes. I was floored when I saw this question in the author interview: "Is there really skiing in North Carolina?" Okay, I'm a NC native, and I probably don't know as much about your state as I should, but this just floored me. We'll never come close to competing with Utah or Vermont, but we do have skiing.. If you're in the area in the wintertime, come on over and give us a try.
So, I do recommend this. I enjoyed her other book, Garden Spells, more, but this was still a sweet little book with some important messages for women. (less)
It all starts when Moses Bailey marries young, beautiful Kate Malone. The Baileys are known to be a strict, religious family and the Malones are known...moreIt all starts when Moses Bailey marries young, beautiful Kate Malone. The Baileys are known to be a strict, religious family and the Malones are known to be a fun-loving, party family. This dichotomy continues throughout Moses and Kate's family tree. Some of their descendants are fiddle-playing musicians and some are devout church-going folks who frown on their more-popular relatives. The book mainly follows the lives of five different family members. Each one has something to contribute to the church vs fiddle feud, whether it's "I used to be a good-time man, but God showed me the error of my ways late one night" or "My mama was a real religious woman and I just couldn't wait to get out from under her roof and off to Nashville."
This was just okay. Now that I think about it, the book read more like a series of long short stories, if you know what I'm trying to say. I enjoy short stories, but Lee Smith tends to write very complicated, nuanced characters. Each main character's story ended before I really felt ready for it to end, so I was always left wanting more. If she ever used this book for a jumping-off place for five different novels, I would probably enjoy those. This book just left me a little frustrated.
But, as alway, Smith got the culture and the language of the Southern Appalachians exactly right. And to an extent, this church-or-music-heaven-or-hell-there's-no-meeting-of-the-two kind of culture is still out there. It's not so widespread, but it's still definitely around. So she knows what she's talking about. The book was, as always, very readable, and the fact that I wanted more about each character should tell you something about characterization. All the characters could get confusing at times, but my copy had a family tree at the front and the back. Expect to refer to that pretty frequently.
I would recommend this to those who are already fans of Lee Smith, but for someone who's never read one of her wonderful books, I would recommend one of her more traditional novels. (less)
This is a story told from many points of view. First is Zebulon Vance, the real life Civil War governor of North Carolina. We follow him from his days...moreThis is a story told from many points of view. First is Zebulon Vance, the real life Civil War governor of North Carolina. We follow him from his days as a hotel porter fresh off the farm until his rise to governor. Next is Malinda Blalock, a tough mountain woman who follows her husband to war and beyond. Then there's Rattler, a modern day man with a touch of the second sight who realizes that the Civil War re-enactors of the mountains are calling up uneasy spirits who are best left alone.
I enjoyed reading about my region's role in the Civil War. I'd heard somewhere that we were exceptionally torn apart during that conflict because we weren't wealthy landowners and so had no clear-cut reason to join either side. This book showed that.
The voices of the different narrators were done very well. They were each very distinct. The only negative I have to say about it is that Malinda's voice didn't ring entirely true. The author gave it a good try, but she didn't quite get the accent and the language right. Lee Smith does a much better job with our Appalachian dialect.
There was one other narrator in the book, but he had a very minor role. In fact, I'm not entirely sure why his parts were even included. He only had a few chapters, but I felt like they could have been cut out completely without really hurting the story.
I'll be a little devilish here and say that I also enjoyed the way McCrumb wrote about our transplants from Florida. They were sort of caricatures, and we don't really think they're all like that, but we do feel like some newcomers think us locals are barbarians who should just leave and let them enjoy their cliffside homes. A little brutally honest, perhaps, but there you go.
But overall, this was an interesting book. I wasn't riveted to the page, but I did enjoy it. Not enough to think about reading it again, but it was time well-spent.(less)
This is the story of Jeannette Walls's childhood growing up with a father who adored his children but who also neglected them shamefully and became do...moreThis is the story of Jeannette Walls's childhood growing up with a father who adored his children but who also neglected them shamefully and became downright scary when he drank. Her mother was a carefree spirit who couldn't be bothered to take care of her children. She thought it was good for them to learn to take care of themselves. The first story we get from Jeannette's childhood involves the horrible burns she sustained while cooking hot dogs for herself at the age of three. Childhood doesn't really get any better from there.
I'm torn on rating this book. I read it in one day. I really couldn't put it down. But at the same time, this isn't the normal kind of book I read and I can't really say that I enjoyed it. I know that's not really the point with this kind of memoir, but I do typically choose to read for enjoyment. I don't really have much to say about it. I'm not a fan of non-fiction, but this did "read like fiction." I feel like I've read a memoir somewhat similar to this in the past. I know everyone's story is different, but I really think that reading the story of a charming alcoholic's daughter one time was enough for me. This was one time too many. I'd give it three stars except for the fact that I really did rip right through it.(less)
Ave Maria (Please don't call her Ava) Mulligan has lived all her life in Big Stone Gap in the mountains of Virginia. Yet she's still seen as a "furrin...moreAve Maria (Please don't call her Ava) Mulligan has lived all her life in Big Stone Gap in the mountains of Virginia. Yet she's still seen as a "furriner" by everyone else because her mother was from Italy. Ave is sort of a "pillar of the community"; she's the town pharmacist, she makes house calls, she directs the town's outdoor summer drama, she's one of two volunteers for the rescue squad--you name, she's in it. But after her mother's recent death, Ave learns some surprising news about herself that leads her to question the direction her life is taking and make some big changes.
Probably the most important thing to me about this book is that I was either smiling or laughing most of the way through it, and at the end I was definitely left with a satisfied smile on my face. It was a sweet, yet funny story full of lovable, quirky characters. And two very viable male leads to think about! :-)
I just finished reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society recently, and I think fans of that book will enjoy this one. Not that there's anything really similar between the two. But they both left me smiling, and those books are always fun to find. I'll continue reading the rest of this series.(less)
John Bayley meets Anna Stockton when she's in her late teens. He decides right away that he's going to marry her. She looks to be a strong woman who k...moreJohn Bayley meets Anna Stockton when she's in her late teens. He decides right away that he's going to marry her. She looks to be a strong woman who knows how to work. After burying two wives, that combination appeals to John. The rest of the book follows the ups and downs of their marriage and their relationship to the land.
My biggest issue with this book was that I somehow felt like I was watching a silent movie as I read it. I felt very much outside the story. I got the feeling that this was done on purpose so that I the reader would be more focused on what the author was trying to show me rather than on how I felt about each character or event. It was effective, but I do like to feel a connection to the characters I read about, so it wasn't a style I cared for.
There was a lot going on in this book. The point didn't really seem to be the story itself, but rather to explore man's relationship to nature and also man's relationship to other men. What I took away was a message about humanity's need to dominate our surroundings and how futile that need is. Nature will win in the end. I also took away a message about the futility of our hopes and dreams and how we are ultimately so impermanent that we will be nothing more than a fleeting memory. This is all true, but it's a little bleak for my taste.
The author is a poet and it shows in her lyrical, yet succinct prose. She says a lot in such a relatively short book, but she says it beautifully.
Salt left me thinking, and I believe I will think about it for a long time. But ultimately I did feel too far removed from the story to give it more than three stars. This will appeal to those who are more interested in a message than in caring about characters. It was a strong book, it just wasn't necessarily to my taste.(less)
My mom remembered that I wanted local photography books to put in my guest room and picked this up for me. Am I glad she did! These beautiful photos s...moreMy mom remembered that I wanted local photography books to put in my guest room and picked this up for me. Am I glad she did! These beautiful photos show everything I love about my home state and will hopefully help me share it with out-of-town guests.(less)