Books and Reviews at Greenberry House

Like most booksellers, reading is a large part of my life here at Greenberry House. I have a special old chair, so worn that it sags, where I love to curl up with a good book. Old favorites, exciting new writers, spiritual or challenging, fiction or fact; all pass through my hands and many are worthy of comment. I plan an occasional mention here of a recent book I've read, either to recommend or to warn!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Gap Creek

Gap Creek by Robert Morgan, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1999

I had read this once before, but when it showed up in the astonsihing stack of books my aunt sent me recently I thought it was time for another visit with the Richards family down in the valley. The theme I liked the most in this books is that it doesn't seem to be a good idea for mountain folk to leave the mountains; that's just asking for trouble.

And trouble is just what Julie and Hank get when they move down on Gap Creek so Hank can go to work at a job nearby. Julie, newly married with the secret hope that her days of hard work are done, finds herself working just as hard to keep house for her landlord and new husband. Their trials really begin at hog killing time, and things just get worse and worse as the young couple struggles to deal with fire, flood, famine and a difficult mother-in-law.

Told from the point of view of Julie, I sometimes thought the characterization of Hank and the others in the book was a little sketchy. But then I realized that Julie told her story like a mountain woman would tell it. If my grandmother had ever really sat down and told the story of her life, it would have read very much like the story of Julie and Hank. Not so much tragedy, of course, but it would have been about trouble and working and family. And Grandma would have told it like Julie did, with not so much emphasis of how and why this happened; she would have just said it happened this way.

Reading between the lines is required more with this book than with many others, but there is a sublte Appalachian realism here. Mountain people don't go in for introspection and emotion, really. Perhaps the book would have been stronger with less tragedy and more empathy between the characters, and more revelation about the development of some characters. But I think the author accomplished his purpose, and told "The Story of a Marriage".

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