Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Child of the Mountains by Marilyn Sue Shank

About the Novel:

It’s about keeping the faith.

Growing up poor in 1953 in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia doesn’t bother Lydia Hawkins. She treasures her tight-knit family. There’s her loving mama, now widowed; her whip-smart younger brother, BJ, who has cystic fibrosis; and wise old Gran. But everything falls apart after Gran and BJ die and mama is jailed unjustly. Suddenly Lydia has lost all those dearest to her.

Moving to a coal camp to live with her uncle William and aunt Ethel Mae only makes Lydia feel more alone. She is ridiculed at her new school for her outgrown homemade clothes and the way she talks, and for what the kids believe her mama did. And to make matters worse, she discovers that her uncle has been keeping a family secret—about her.

If only Lydia, with her resilient spirit and determination, could find a way to clear her mother’s name...

About the Author:

Marilyn Sue Shank earned her PhD in special education from the University of Kansas, where she majored in learning disabilities and behavior disorders and minored in counseling psychology and families with disabilities. She has taught general and special education at the elementary, secondary, and college levels.

Marilyn’s work has been published in journals, and she coauthored the first four editions of Exceptional Lives: Special Education in Today’s Schools. Child of the Mountains is her first work of fiction. She lives in West Virginia with her three rescued dogs.

My Thoughts:

Oh my, what an endearing and emotional read!  I loved this one for so many reasons!

I have a soft place in my heart for stories involving Appalachia and the people who live there.  Much of my family calls these mountains home, I chose a college there, and my husband is from the Southwestern Virginia area and calls these mountains his home.  For those reasons, and just a pure love of the history of the area, books like this reach me on a whole new level!

I also have to give the author much credit because it is hard, I imagine, to write in the mountain dialect.  If you're not used to reading it it can be hard to follow but once you get into it you are hooked and it adds a whole deeper element to the story.

Lydia is such a complex character and the author really does a magnificent job portraying her and it was a amazing to watch her character grow and change throughout the novel.  Her story is heartbreaking but hopeful, and seeing all of the people who care about her and help her through touched my heart.

Just as valuable to the story are the supporting characters, they each have their special place in this novel and add something to the story that otherwise would not be.  One of the most touching was Mr. Hinkle, who showed Lydia that she should be proud of her culture, heritage and dialect.  He is evidence that a special person can show up in a child's life at just the right moment.  What he and Ms. Parker do for Lydia is beyond words.

I also enjoyed reading all of her "firsts" - lip gloss, nylons, etc.  It was exciting to see someone so humble experience that and as a reader I felt her excitement right along with her!

This book is about lessons...those we are taught within ourselves and those taught to us by others.  All valuable because they add to our character.  Lydia was the voice through this novel but it holds a bigger message that I think we all can learn from.

I love this novel, I read it in just a few short hours because I just couldn't put it down.  I am adding it to my reading list for my 6th grade book club students.

Book Rating: 5/5

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