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My Old True Love

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  777 Ratings  ·  114 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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Dec 29, 2013 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
Mar 25, 2013 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 07, 2013 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 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
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of the most beautiful novels I have ever read- the reader is transported to North Carolina in the mid to late 1800's to a rural community deep in the mountains of Appalachia. We meet Arty, as real a person as I've ever met, who shares her joys and struggles from her teen years onward. Arty marries well and raises a large family on a struggling farm, but the Civil War and heartbreak touch her and her surrounding community. Family connections and music play an integral part in the story, and t ...more
Steph (loves water)
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. A beautifully written story about life, relationships, birth, loss, and death. I found it to be deeply spiritual without being the least bit religious. Poetic descriptions of nature and the world, and the effect of the Civil War on families. The songs were heartfelt, poignant, heartbreaking. I very rarely say this, but wouldn't this make a wonderful movie? Just a thought.
Apr 27, 2010 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
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.
Jul 09, 2010 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
Marie Carmean
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh how I adored this book! Like the tragic love songs of Europe that were carried over to Appalachia (and for which Sheila Kay Adams is well-known as a singer and historian of this dying art) her book is a tragic love song in itself. Beautifully written! The reader feels like she is sitting with the old woman Arty hearing about her life and the lives of her loved ones in a fireside telling. Anyone who loves the history of the south, especially Appalachia, and for those who enjoy wonderfully writ ...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 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
Sep 05, 2013 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 09, 2012 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
Dec 23, 2008 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 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
Jul 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Even better the 2nd time! This is Southern Appalachian fiction at its finest! Told in a language beautifully unique to this part of the country, it was like hearing my own grandmother speak! Just a beautiful, "feel-good" story about a hard-working family and a way of life that is gone forever. Full of trials and hardships, but above all, love and the bonds of family which cannot be broken. Full of wisdom and insight! I truly loved it!
Jun 04, 2010 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.
Laura Lulu
Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Heartwarming, heartwrenching, heartbreaking. And the narrator is wonderful--she makes the book.
Nancy Rankin
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book to listen to.
Diane Cox
Jun 19, 2012 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'
Aug 18, 2017 rated it liked it
"These were the days that I would look back on once I'd married with such a longing in my heart. Them were times that seemed almost magic--you know how it is when you remember your childhood. The sun is always shining or there's a big pretty snow on the ground, and you're young and never sick or tired, and everybody you ever loved is still living and your whole life is a big wide road stretched out in front of you just waiting for you to take that first step toward the living of it."
My Old True
Melanie Jacques
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Listening to this book brought me back to when I was a little girl listening to my grandparents chatting. The phrases and or sayings that are used in this story are phrases/sayings that I have heard all of my life but never thought too much about them until someone brings attention to it. I never thought too much about where some of these phrases originated from. The songs too, I can hear my grandma Ruby singing and whistling these same sounds. Some of the sayings in this story had me laughing o ...more
Jillian Lottes-Schatzman
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
The characters portrayed in the book are incredibly well depicted. I often felt as if I were right there with them. The lyrical elements make it even more unique and the setting brings a new life to one of my favorite places to be.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Expert use of dialect and masterful characterization. A charming novel, but the plot wanes in spaces and didn't keep my interest throughout.
Lois Blanco
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Would like this on audio with the many songs sung.
Willie Latane
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
A haunting tale of life in the mountains when times were harsh and life was near impossible.
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
The language is beautiful.
Civil war era. Arty was a strong woman I wish I could have been like.
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved the voice of this story as much as anything. I could hear my southern grandma's voice as I read; the Smoky Mountain dialect was just spot on with how it was written. I very much enjoyed the clannish family tale, description of life on the mountain and historical details. The only reason I didn't give the book five stars is because I felt like the end was just a little flat. Such a great build up with the plot and then I don't know... Just not what I expected at the end. Either way, it was ...more
Elizabeth-Ann Diehl
Feb 01, 2014 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
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Beyond Mr. Darcy:...: April 2013: My Old True Love 5 12 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.” 10 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.” 6 likes
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