Although many of his neighbors and relatives joined the Confederate Army, struggling Rutherford County farmer Francis Melton did not see that he had a personal stake in the conflict. He felt he was doing his patriotic duty buy selling his crops to the Confederacy for less than their worth. Eventually, however, he is convinced that he is duty-bound to serve and he leaves his wife and daughters to enlist. Francis and his conscripted friend, Whit Whitaker, face hunger, violence, danger, as they fight their way through the final year of the Civil War. Scarecrow in Gray is loosely based on the author’s great-grandfather’s service in the Civil War.
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Zach Whetsone, a lad from Rutherford County, happens to be selling his produce in Spartanburg, South Carolina one spring day when the commencement exercises at Wofford College are taking place. Zach is inspired by the event and later returns to Wofford as a student. As a poor mountaineer, Zach has to overcome many obstacles to complete his degree. When he finally does, he returns home to marry his true love, preach, teach, and start a high school. Zach is presented as an admirable figure: working hard, caring for his widowed mom, staying true to his love, and speaking out for national reconciliation, but his racial attitudes (or, those of the author) will offend many readers.
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Since Elizabeth Tarrington went to a lot of trouble to make it look like her husband died in the Vietnam War, she’s angry when he informs her that he will be including their daughters in his will. One daughter, Hayden, goes to visit him in Asheville, but she discovers that her father died only a few hours before her arrival. The main plot centers on the competition between developers and a conservancy group for control of land in the Hickory Nut Gorge that Hayden and her sister inherit, but Hayden also faces the mysteries of her father’s two “deaths,” the challenges of running his art gallery, and the possibilities of a new romance. The local details of In the Shadows of Chimney Rock add realism to the story: Ben, the novel’s ex-football-star-turned-environmentalist, teaches at Warren Wilson College; the art gallery is in the Grove Arcade; and real land conservancy groups continue to work to protect Hickory Nut Gorge from developers.
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Jim Glass, introduced to readers in a previous novel, Jim the Boy, has grown into a teenager. He experiences first love, but Chrissie Steppe, the object of his affections, has promised to wait for a boy who has left for service in World War II. Although this is a coming-of-age story, it is not just about Jim, but also about how a distant war ripples through the lives in one small Southern town.
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Jim is a ten-year-old boy who lives with his mother and her brothers and is just beginning to come to grips with the adult world. The story is set in the fictional southwestern North Carolina town of Aliceville in the 1930s and follows Jim through everyday events as he struggles to understand his family, friends, and through their stories, himself. Aliceville is probably based on Rutherfordton, N.C.
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