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 everything they needed to know about life.
So it was with the Stanton family living in Marshall, North Carolina, during the 1800s. Even Larkin Stanton, just a baby when his parents die and he's taken in by his cousin Arty, starts humming before he starts talking. As he grows up, he hungrily learns every song he can, and goes head-to-head with his cousin Hackley for the best voice, and, of course, the best attentions of the women. It's not long before the two boys find themselves pursuing the affections of the same lovely girl, Mary, who eventually chooses Hackley for her husband.
But, just as in the most tragic ballads, there is no stowing away of emotions. And when Hackley leaves his wife under his cousin's care in the midst of the Civil War, Larkin finds himself drawn back to the woman who's held his heart for years. What he does about that love defies all his learning of family and loyalty and reminds us that those mournful ballads didn't just come from the imagination, but from the imperfections of the heart.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 loved the feeling I got from reading it. The only part that was difficult was how it was written and this is certainly nothing against the author. I think she did her job beautifully, and she could not have done better in celebrating her family history and heritage through it. The dialect was thick, but it was appropriate. The difficult part was that I haven't read something written this way in a while so I struggled.
Set in Appalachian North Carolina during the Civil War, the story is told through the eyes of an old Arty as she tells the story of her "son" Larkin and brother Hackley. Their story is that of so many families during that time and it is really humbling to hear it.
Growing up very close to Appalachian Mountains, going to college there, and having a husband born and raised there have all put this area of the country very close to my heart. Some of my favorite books are set here...and we visit a few times a year so my interest in the area has grown and grown. Not only is it one of the most beautiful places on earth, it has also produced some of the most beautiful music ever.
I am a sucker for all things Appalachian, mountain, and music and this novel had all of that. The story was a tribute to the author's family and the Appalachian mountain ballads and it absolutely did that amazingly. The mountain ballads were such an beautiful part of this novel, I highly encourage you to check out more information on them at the end of the post, they are a type of music that needs more appreciation.
I think one of the most interesting parts of this book for readers is how very real the characters were and one of the great qualities of this novel was its characters and their story. I am always amazed at the stories of strength and perseverance that are found in women during this time period and this novel did not disappoint in that area.
The story wasn't an on the edge-of-your-seat, but it did keep me guessing...and after the first 50 pages it really got going. You wanted to find out what happened to Larkin, Hackley, and Arty...and the supporting characters along the way were just as engaging as the main ones.
Check out mountain ballad resources on the web...HERE is a great website that offers a short history of Appalachian Mountain music.
Click HERE to hear some traditional Appalachian mountain ballads.