Tag Archives: Appalachia

GodPretty in the Tobacco Fields

The loss of her parents was a tragedy for RubyLyn Bishop. Even worse in her mind, she was shuffled off to live with her Uncle Gunnar in the small rural town of Nameless, Kentucky. For RubyLyn life in Nameless brings changes and challenges from the people who watch and gossip about her.

She must work in the tobacco fields to help support the small farm on which she and her uncle live. Memories of the past and a small scrape of tobacco paper are all RubyLyn has left of happier times with her parents. When her spirits need a bit of a lift, she sometimes folds the scrap of paper into a fun way to tell her fortune, a practice that Uncle Gunnar doesn’t approve.

Surprisingly, RubyLyn finds growing tobacco is something that comes naturally to her. There’s a sense of peace, a solace in working the land and plants, especially when a close neighbor, Rainey Ford, takes an interest. He is easy to talk with and friendly. It isn’t long before she finds herself caring a good deal about him, but there is a problem, he is African-American and she is white. In the 1960’s South, close friendships like theirs were frowned upon and could cause serious problems for them.

Then there is Rose, an older woman and neighbor, who becomes someone that RubyLyn can depend on and talk with when she needs someone. Rose encourages RubyLyn to enter her tobacco plant in the State Fair competition. It may be just the push she needs to realize there is a larger world around her and that she can decide for herself where her future should lie.

Born and raised in central Kentucky, this book drew me in right away. In it, I found an opportunity to spend a short time in the Appalachian area. If you’ve ever wondered what small town life might be like, especially in our turbulent past, this is a book you should take time to sit with. In my opinion, Kim Michele Richardson takes the reader on a journey back in time, using her words to paint pictures of small town life with characters you will come to care about and for whom you can root. It is a realistic portrayal, where life doesn’t always end the way you want it to, where when one road ends another will begin.

Later this year, Ms. Richardson will release a new novel entitled The Sisters of Glass Ferry. For more information about this budding author check out her website.

 

 

Formats Available:  Regular Type, Book Kit

Reviewed by MicahShawnee Branch

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton

secretwisdom

The tragic loss of a small child drives Annie into herself. Her husband can do nothing to console her, but readily points the finger at their surviving son, Kevin, who is smothered by guilt, but unlike his mother is aware of the need to move on. The decision is made for mother and son to leave Indiana for Annie’s family homestead in the Appalachian mountains, where readers find out that this was not the first premature or violent death visited upon the Peebles bloodline; Annie’s mother died as a complication of her birth, while her grandfather was targeted as an early activist for miner’s rights. When Annie returns to her father’s home, he too has known grief and is ready to give his daughter and grandson the space to heal.

Pops Peebles has commanded a great deal of respect amongst the inhabitants of fictional Medgar, Kentucky. He entertains his closest friends most every night with front porch talk and colorful stories, always accompanied by glasses of sour mash in engraved crystal. Like his father, who stood up for safe working conditions for his fellow miners, Pops is also concerned with fighting for what he thinks is best for his community that has slowly degraded due to surface mining practices.

Medgar was once thriving and proud, but in 1985, its beauty has been scarred, its waters polluted, and its economy has slowly trickled to almost nothing. Decline and loss are a painful terrain from which The Secret Wisdom of the Earth‘s youngest characters develop; some who triumph and others only add to the devastation. Kevin, who for most of the book holds back on revealing the circumstances of his brother’s death, finds himself with open-ended days to wander the forest around his grandfather’s home. There he meets Buzzy, a local boy near his own age, and they spend their days exploring the wilderness, navigating bullies, and admiring the opposite sex. The two become inseparable until another tragedy strikes, and the boys are forced to weigh allegiances over conscience.

Whether you’re a fan of regional stories, have an interest in mountaintop removal, or just appreciate a great coming-of-age tale stocked with colorful characters, I encourage you give this first literary effort by Christopher Scotton a top place on your reading list.

Formats Available: Book, eBook

 Reviewed by Natalie, Crescent Hill