I brought this one home from my recent large library book order that came three days before holiday break. I knew, from the description on Titlewave, it was one I wanted to read and it was worth it. My husband went to school at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC and he often regales us with interesting tales of living in this part of the South. Set in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in 1963, Edith M. Hemingway draws on her own family's experiences to create this tale.
Annabel (Annie) and her mother are spending the summer with her grandparents while her dad is stationed oversees. Her mom is pregnant but the baby, born early, dies. Annie spends the summer missing this baby sister, Mary Kate, wondering what her days would be like if things had gone differently. She finds a nice sized rock and holds it like a baby, cuddling it, as she sits by the creek. Her mother struggles and cannot get past the baby's death, reeling in grief, forgetting she has a living daughter. As Annie spends time by the creek, away from home, she meets a mountain women, Eliza McGhee who helps her come to understand her mother's depression.
Eliza is a most fascinating character and she slowly reveals her history to Annie. Through Miss Eliza's revelations we learn of her abusive husband and death of her own child years earlier. Their relationship leads to Annie's ability to help her own mother and also allows Annie to understand the other people in her life.
I was close enough now to see the woman sitting on the back stoop of her house with the door open behind her like a narrow slit leading to a dark cave. She reminded me of a character in some fairy tale I had read years ago-not a scary person, but someone who had lived through hard times. Her head was bent over an instrument that lay across her knees, and her face was hidden by the floppy folds of her sunbonnet. She bobbed her head to the rhythm of the music that she plucked from the strings. (58)I loved Miss Eliza's ability to envelope Annie into her life even though, previously, she shunned close relationships. Ostracised in her own community Miss Eliza deftly steps in and fills the gap in young Annie's life. Annie leans on Miss Eliza for understanding and learns what it takes to be friend during difficult times; standing up for what is right and true. These two share a love of reading which is a wonderful connection-I loved Miss Eliza's recollections of the librarian who brings books to her in prison.
When I get back to school I know I will be able to book talk this one right into an eager student's hands.
Edith M. Hemingway's website
Here is a good book trailer video.
Sherry at Semicolon liked it too!
Buy it for someone you love at an Indiebound store near you-Road to Tater Hill