Sunday, August 19, 2012
Appalachian Stories - Recommendations Wanted!
In addition to being his first foray into young adult literature, this book also happens to be great Independence Day reading. It takes place in 1976, and follows 10-year-old Eli through the course of one summer.
Although the setting felt thoroughly American, the themes are universal. What defines family? Why is honesty a vital component of communication? How do we show—or feel—love and concern?
Absolutely recommended, (although the epilogue didn't quite feel organic to the story,) especially for those who enjoy the coming-of-age aspect. My enjoyment of the story ended up leading me to a book of short stories that has been on my shelf since August 2004. (Crazy, that.) Chris Holbrook's Hell and Ohio: originally acquired because I'd enjoyed Silas House's other books. At that time, newly entrenched in caring for a new infant (for the 4th time, hello) and therefore lacking in extra brain cells, I read only the first story and felt that it was a little slow. Nothing special. Reading it again 8 years later, I am entranced. (I'm guessing that at least part of the reason is that I've taken measures to appreciate short stories, so I simply have more familiarity with the form.)
In the nine stories, coal mining (land development/destruction) is a common theme, as are manners, alcohol, religion. All themes that rang true to me...perhaps because I grew up in a small mountain town (admittedly it was in Northern California's Sierra Nevadas as opposed to the Appalachians, but the lumber mill and logging industry had a similar heavy presence in some respects to the coal mines). I grew to enjoy feeling "a little closed in by all the trees and mountains on every side."
All the stories are wonderful, skillful, and worth reading.
(As a side note - I had the most visceral reaction (to The Lost Dog) I've ever had to a written work. My first thought after reading the story was that it didn't say anything, but then immediately I was flooded with memories from my childhood that mirrored the story, and began to get choked up (something I don't often do, especially to the extreme I did) thinking about the fact that somebody else understood, perfectly, those feelings. I just had to stop and cope for a few minutes, I couldn't think about or look at anything else until I'd taken a few deep breaths. Pretty crazy experience!)
I'd like to put a few books on my wishlist that would be good places to go from here. Any suggestions? I think I might have a copy of River of Earth by James Still from back in 2004 when I was on the hunt for Appalachian stories. I enjoyed Lee Smith's Fair and Tender Ladies a couple years back...that's all I've got. What've you got? Recommend me!