Category Archives: Piedmont

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John Milliken Thompson. Love and Lament. New York: Random House, 2013.

Love and LamentDeath trails fast on the heels of the Hartsoe family. At age six, the youngest Hartsoe, Mary Bet, mistakes a circuit rider for the Devil. She cowers in the shadow of the Devil on horseback with hobnail boots and a black handlebar moustache. Soon after the encounter, Mary Bet’s eight other brother and sisters and her mother begin dying off, one by one, as if in a orchestrated funeral procession. Mary Bet believes that the Hartsoe family is cursed. But her generation and her father’s clutch to life during one of America’s more trying, transitional phases – Reconstruction.

Mary Bet’s father, Rezin Cicero, or R.C. for short, fought in the Civil War and wants to distance himself from the memories of battle. However, the constant reminder of his peg leg makes moving on a challenge. His miserly father, Samuel Hartsoe, withheld the family business from him. Samuel believes that R.C. should learn and labor to generate his own fortune. R.C. manages a general store and married one of William “Captain Billie” Murchison’s daughters, Susan Elizabeth. R.C. and Susan Elizabeth’s marriage tangles the family trees somewhat awkwardly. Samuel Hartsoe still feels lingering indignation that his father, John Siler, sold the Hartsoe family home to the drunken and vulgar Captain Billie rather than bequeathing it to him. As R.C.’s children and his wife die by a seeming string of dumb and simple misfortune, his faith flags. He rejects what others mourn as God’s will and he descends into madness. His youngest daughter, Mary Bet watches guiltily while R.C.’s body and mind decay. Love and Lament is a story concerned with the tension of family relationships, community exchanges, and constant hardships.

Meanwhile, Mary Bet, the story’s heroine, matures as the broken, war-torn South ushers in new industrialization and alterations in established values at the turn of the century. Mary Bet was born the year the railroad arrived in Haw County, a loosely fictionalized version of Chatham County. Mary Bet is a figure of the New South and a liminal character. She struggles to unshackle herself and move beyond the past. In her will, Mary Bet’s mother Susan Elizabeth deeds her jewels to her prettiest daughter, her silver to her most ambitious, and the family Bible to Mary Bet. Her mother’s gift appoints Mary Bet as the keeper of the Hartsoe family history. And fittingly so — Mary Bet is the only one of R.C. and Susan Elizabeth’s children to enter adulthood after all. From the rubble of the old world, Mary Bet emerges as a modern woman.

Novelist John Milliken Thompson spins a family saga rooted in the Southern Gothic tradition that spans from Reconstruction to World War I. The grief of the Hartsoe family echoes the changing climate of post-Civil War South. Thompson relates his story with mesmerizing and authentic detail that evokes great pathos for the Hartsoe clan. His rendering of Mary Bet from age six to age thirty rings true. With Mary Bet and the rest of the Hartsoes, Thompson accentuates how memory and history can haunt us, from the past long into the future.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Chatham, Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Thompson, John Milliken

Kathy Reichs. Bones of the Lost. New York: Scribner, 2013.

Bones of the LostThings just aren’t going Temperance Brennan’s way. At the opening of Kathy Reichs’ sixteenth installment of her best-selling Temperance Brennan series, Temperance is stuck tapping her toes in a very uncomfortable pair of Louboutin pumps at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. She was called for jury duty and even though her role as medical examiner will exempt her from selection, the inexperienced prosecutor makes Brennan jump through all the hoops first. Because losing more than half a day wasn’t enough, Brennan locks herself out of her car with her purse and cell phone inside. After several unsuccessful attempts to jimmy open the lock and an awkward exchange with an overeager parking attendant turned vigilante, an unwanted savior arrives.

Police detective Erskine “Skinny” Sliddell appears and gives Brennan a lift back to the Medical Examiner’s office. But not before filling her in on the latest case. Early that morning, an unidentified teen was killed in a hit and run. Although the girl didn’t have any form of ID for herself, she was carrying John-Henry Story’s U.S. Airways club card. Story was a businessman who died when a fire broke out at his flea market six months ago. Or at least, Brennan determined that the remains found at the scene fit the profile for Story. Sliddell speculates that the Jane Doe was involved in prostitution, based on her possessions, her estimated time of death, and her location. When Brennan returns to the Medical Examiner’s office, she examines the Jane Doe’s body. Because of the nature of the case (young, innocent victim and brutal death), Brennan struggles to not let her emotions overrule her logic, especially when she rules the supposed accident to be something more sinister. The Jane Doe wasn’t killed by accident, she was murdered.

Brennan is already busy though. She has four sets of mummified dog remains from Peru that she must certify as human or nonhuman. U.S. Customs seized the remains from former Marine, Dominick Rockett upon his reentry to the country. Rockett has a history of smuggling smaller antiques and trinkets out of South America. His usual inventory consists of inexpensive jewelry, crafts, and home wares. But apparently Rockett is expanding his market.  The two crimes run parallel at first, but as Brennan investigates with a keener eye, she identifies that both cases involve illegal trafficking of goods and that some of the implicated figures overlap.

Meanwhile, Reichs weaves in elements of Brennan’s personal life into the story. Her daughter Katy has enlisted in the army as a means to recover from the grief of her boyfriend’s unexpected death. Katy soothed her mother’s anxieties by reassuring that she would never be sent into combat. Then the US Army lifted the ban on women in combat and sent Katy to Afghanistan. But Brennan gets the opportunity to visit Katy overseas. Her estranged husband Pete, who is pressuring her for divorce papers, pressures Brennan into traveling to Afghanistan to help out an old buddy’s nephew who is accused of shooting two unarmed villagers. Pete wants Brennan to exhume the bodies and take the stand as an expert witness. With the promise of seeing Katy, Brennan boards Turkish Airlines to do a little extra detective work. And, as it turns out, Brennan owes Pete a huge thank you. Going to Afghanistan helps her lace the evidence together and reveal a surprising conspiracy at work.

Browse the blog for other coverage on Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series. You can filter the search by clicking on and navigating through the author category in the top right-hand column. With this view you can see all the past authors we have blogged about and the number of entries available. Or click on the categories and tags below.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Mecklenburg, Mystery, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Reichs, Kathy, Suspense/Thriller

Glen Hirshberg. Motherless Child. Northborough, MA: Earthling Publications, 2012.

Friends and recent mothers, Natalie and Sophie are enjoying a night out in Charlotte, drinking, listening to music, and meeting men. Natalie and Sophie seem like a typical pairing of opposites: where Natalie is coolly observant, Sophie is fun and free-spirited. At a bar, they meet a bizarre performer called the Whistler. The Whistler is fixated on Natalie. He first saw her, secretly, the night before working a shift at a Waffle House. After that brief encounter, the Whistler decided that Natalie is his “Destiny,” that she is bound to be his companion for eternity. So later that night, he turns both women into vampires. The next morning Natalie and Sophie awake in Natalie’s car, disoriented and not fully certain of the last night’s events. However, their ripped clothing and dried blood give them a good idea that things are not totally right.

Soon, Natalie and Sophie begin their inevitable transformation. Natalie recognizes the threat of the Whistler and his current companion, Mother. She asks her mother, Jess, to take her and Sophie’s children and to disappear. Natalie plans to go into hiding with Sophie. Sophie, though, is not keen on the idea of being separated from her child and she fights Natalie most of the way. But in short order Jess and the children and Natalie and Sophie flee their trailer park, Honeycomb Corner, heading in opposite directions with the Whistler and Mother at their heels. The Whistler is bent first on finding Natalie, and then, on finding the children to threaten Natalie into submission. Mother, meanwhile, is just bent on destruction.

Natalie and Sophie try to suppress the new hunger they feel growing inside of them that compels them to complete their transition. As they head further South, toward the alligator-filled swamps of Florida, both women long to reunite with their babies and return to their homes, ignoring their intuition that neither of them can go back to normal. Paths cross and characters collide in a thrilling final show down.

Motherless Child was published in limited release by Earthling Publications to celebrate Halloween. But the novel isn’t your standard vampire story. Hirshberg’s tale is an unusual amalgamation of one part buddy road-trip, one part action-fueled chase, and one part supernatural horror. In fact, the word “vampire” is hardly, if ever, uttered between the pages. Hirshberg taps into a few traditions, yet for the most part these are vampires quite unlike the broodier stock of recent pop culture. They use Twitter and they don’t have fangs–but they do delight in violence. These are vampires of a much more wicked constitution — one that would pale lovers of Twilight and related vampire romance.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Hirshberg, Glen, Horror, Mecklenburg, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller

Emily H. Nelson. Thrown. Raleigh, NC: E. H. Nelson, 2011.

Ohio resident Pheobe Price decided to attend Elon College to put some distance between herself and her past.  In high school Phoebe became part of a close circle of friend and was in love with a wonderful guy, Jeff. Only Jeff wasn’t so wonderful.  When Phoebe finds him flagrante delicto with one of the other girls in their group, she looses not only Jeff, but most of her friends.

Getting away by going to a small, friendly college like Elon seems like the right thing to do, but leaving the past behind is easier said than done.  Jeff has had yet another change of heart.  He writes and calls Phoebe pressing for a reconciliation, and he even comes to campus to see her.  Distressing as this is for Phoebe, she is even more troubled by what Jeff’s betrayal has done to her.  She’s less open with other people, less sure of herself, and careful to keep her heart locked up.

Phoebe goes through her first semester at Elon in this cautious, closed-up state, but things change early in Winter Term after she meets William Garrett.  William is a junior who looks like he stepped out of a J. Crew catalog.  Phoebe is attracted to him, and he to her.  As their relationship develops, Phoebe feels her trusting nature and optimism return, but some uneasiness is still there.  William is from England and his father works at something that cannot be discussed.  The mystery that surrounds his family and his life back in England is a cloud over Phoebe’s happiness.  As Thrown moves to a dramatic conclusion, Phoebe will have to decide if she can embrace William and his father’s dangerous business.

Emily Nelson is a graduate of Elon University, and readers who know the university and the surrounding town will enjoy her warm, accurate depiction of the campus and the community.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Alamance, Nelson, Emily H., Piedmont

Jennifer Hudson Taylor. Path of Freedom. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2013.

pathAt eighteen, Flora Saferight has already developed a reputation as a competent midwife in her small community in Guilford County, North Carolina.  Such recognition would seem to indicate that she is mature beyond her years, but in fact, she is still impetuous and quick to take offense.  And no one offends her quite as much as Bruce Milliken.  Bruce teased Flora when they were young, and she is now ever on the ready for his next barb.  Bruce, who has long been attracted to Flora’s tempestuousness, has tried to make amends, but she has rebuffed every offer of a truce in their little war of words. But when Flora and Bruce are tapped by their pastor for a dangerous mission, the two young people must put aside their past.

For Flora and Bruce are part of a tight-knit Quaker community–a community that has been resisting the slaveholding society that they live in by ferrying men and women out of bondage to freedom in the North.  It’s  secret and dangerous work that both Bruce’s parents and Flora’s have done; they now want their children to take over their roles.  As Path of Freedom opens, Bruce has just returned from a trip to Indiana on the Underground Railroad.  Bruce has shown that he can handle the false-bottomwagon that hides his passengers and that he can withstand the hardships of the trip.  Flora has never done this work–and she did not know of her parents’ involvement in the Underground Railroad–but she is keenly needed for the next trip, because the passengers are a young man and his pregnant wife.  There is a chance that the woman will give birth while they are on the trip to Pennsylvania and that she will need the attentions of a skilled midwife to save her and her baby.

Because the young couple will be hidden, and it would appear improper for Flora and Bruce to travel alone, Flora’s sister Irene must make the trip too.  Irene provides some of the lighter moments in the book and acts as a go-between between Bruce and Flora as they work out their feelings for each other.  Although the dangers and hardship of the trip–suspicious landowners, bobcats, storms, bounty hunters–are portrayed, Path of Freedom, is at its core a romance in which the relationship between Flora and Bruce takes center stage.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Guilford, Historical, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship, Taylor, Jennifer Hudson

Nora Gaskin. Until Proven. Chapel Hill, NC: Lystra Books & Literary Services, 2012.

“I’ve been thinking that all of this lawyering is stupid, that Sean and the others should just open their mouths for a scraping and get it over with. But now I get it. What you’ve always tried to say, Daddy. Being innocent isn’t enough.”

Until ProvenFirst-time novelist, Nora Gaskin, weaves a powerful family drama in two parts. In 1963, Colin Phillips is more or less happily married to Rhetta Phillips, née Vance, and is dedicated to his two daughters, Eden and Wren. The Vance family is a wealthy Southern line, one that Colin, a poor boy from a mill town, managed to marry into. Colin provides for his family by working as a lawyer. Recently, Colin has agreed to represent clients pro bono if they were arrested while carrying out acts of civil disobedience. Rhetta and Colin do not see eye-to-eye on the shifting racial climate, and she is especially displeased by the news of Colin working for free since he insists that she not dip into her inheritance to support the family. But Rhetta accepts the arrangement quietly.  She has news of her own that will alter their family permanently.

Rhetta’s bachelor twin brother, Laurence, intends to return from London and live in the family guest cottage for an unspecified amount of time. Laurence has no official occupation aside from sporadic traveling and writing. While Colin feels affable distance toward Laurence, Rhetta is consumed with protective sisterly affection. For a time Laurence writes and loafs about town, then, mysteriously one day, he brings home a wife, Shelia, a librarian at the local university. He soon departs the guest cottage to establish his household. Laurence hires a local boy, Jabel Clark, to help him and Shelia spruce up their home. Jabel graduated second in his high school class, but has decided to wait to apply for college. He hopes to save money for his guardian and grandmother, Marie Minton, before he thinks of furthering his education. Marie once worked as the Vance family housekeeper and cared for Rhetta and Laurence as children. The arrangement seems to work well, at first. However, some of Laurence’s deepest secrets are revealed to Jabel, and then Shelia is found murdered. As a court case involving Laurence and Jabel gears up, family tensions run high, racial intolerance emerges, and the situation turns ugly.

In 2003, the novel resumes with the next two generations. Although the wounds of the previous case appeared to have scabbed over, one more good scratch rips them open again. Without revealing any crucial spoilers from the first half of the story in 1963, another girl is found murdered in her home and relatives from the same families are implicated in the crime again. The families are left tip-toeing around each other as the court case looming in the near future. Until Proven is packed with great tension and unexpected twists that will keep readers entranced until the final page. Gaskin delves into the dark side of family loyalty, exploring how far the bounds of truth and justice can be stretched in the name of protection and devotion.

Look at this interview in The Daily Tar Heel for more information on the author and the inspiration behind her story.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Gaskin, Nora, Mystery, Piedmont

Monique Miller. The Marrying Kind. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2012.

marryingAs this novel opens, Travis Highgate definitely does not look like the marrying kind.  He is divorced, disengaged from his two sons, unemployed, and about to be evicted from his not-so-nice apartment.  A chance encounter with a college friend leads to a house-sitting gig in a very nice neighborhood. This could be just the break that Travis needs, but how will Travis use it?  At first, it is all about enjoyment–days in front of his friend’s wide screen TV and nights taking out new women, using his friend’s car and even his clothes.  Slowly, Travis comes to see that this is not the way to make a life that will give him lasting happiness.  Readers will root for Travis as he struggles to dig himself out of a financial hole, live the values that will lead to happiness, save his ex-wife from a dangerous entanglement, and reunite his family.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Miller, Monique, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Peggy Payne. Cobalt Blue. Washington: Roundfire Books, 2013.

Cobalt BlueThirty-eight year-old Pinehurst-based artist Andi Branson has hit a low point in her life. Her long-term relationship with her boyfriend Charlie has fizzled out and her creative output is stunted. Generating brilliant, original works isn’t exactly easy when you’re stuck pumping out commercial commissions. The readers first meet Andie pitching herself to be hired on a sports-themed mural for a country club. Andie isn’t thrilled about the prospect of selling her work to an executive board, and her spirits are further dampened when she discovers that her mural will be “branded” for cocktail napkins and towels and all the other disposable, retail-churning “little niceties.” As the board members gather around and critique her portfolio, Andi deplores the direction of her career and life.

Ultimately, the board hires her to create the mural, and the head of the board, Tripp, propositions Andie for another, secretive request. He asks Andie to paint a portrait of U.S. senator, Billy Sylvester. Sylvester is an ultraconservative and racist politician. The senator intends to announce his resignation from the Senate and wishes for a portrait to symbolize his professional legacy. At first, the offer flummoxes Andie. She does not agree with Sylvester’s politics, but the hefty commission of $100,000 finally wins her over. Not surprisingly, Andie clashes with the senator.

As she begins to work on the projects, Andie experiences a strange new sensation. She cannot identify the new force or its origin, but it unleashes carnal desires and creative inspiration. However, Andie cannot control this new compulsion, which she eventually learns is called kundalini rising. Her lack of restraint frightens her and sends her on a journey of discipline and enlightenment to harness this new source of untamed energy and power. Andie turns first to traditional methods of therapy and then, when unsatisfied with the results, to less trod approaches, notably visits to a tarot card reader and a voodoo priestess in New Orleans. Novelist Peggy Payne bravely explores foreign concepts like kundalini and tantric enlightenment with strong descriptive skill. Readers should be prepared for explicit instances of sexuality in this novel of spiritual and sensual awakening.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Moore, Payne, Peggy, Piedmont

Wilton Barnhardt. Lookaway, Lookaway. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013

**Guest review by Arleen Fields**

 At the beginning of our new century, shrewd Charlotte socialite Jerene Johnston is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family’s reputation and to secure her children’s future. Her radical daughter Annie, her gay son Josh, her preacher son Bo, and her insecure daughter Jerilyn don’t make this easy. The Johnston family proudly traces its lineage to Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, and Jerene’s husband Duke has abandoned all professional and political aspirations, preferring to reside in a world of nostalgia and Civil War reenactments.

Each chapter, focusing on one character’s story, is like a portrait hung in a gallery. In some of the paintings the character is front and center; in others the subject blends into the background as action takes over the foreground. The chapter about Bo provides insight into his character, but the scene of a melodramatic Christmas dinner is far more memorable.

Jerene’s children and husband are not her only worries. Her alcoholic brother Gaston makes his living writing popular Civil War novels, her sister Dillard has never recovered from a personal tragedy, and their mother Jeannette lives with the knowledge that she failed to protect her children. Add to the mix Josh’s best friend Dorrie, who’s African American and a lesbian, and Bo’s wife Kate who longs to return to the Peace Corps, and you have the perfect southern tragicomedy.

The title obviously refers to the song “Dixie” and there are other allusions as well. Characters are forced to look the other way when reality is inconvenient. Watching the events unfold is like driving by a gruesome car wreck or watching a reality TV show—we should mind our own business, but morbid curiosity prevents us from averting our gaze.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

For an interview with Wilton Barnhardt, see http://www.alumniblog.ncsu.edu/2013/07/23/wilton-barnhardt-im-nervous-about-being-in-any-camp/

A previous version of this review appears in North Carolina Libraries, vol. 71, no. 1 (2013)

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Barnhardt, Wilton, Mecklenburg, Orange, Piedmont

John Ehle. Move Over, Mountain. New York: William Morrow, 1957.

mountainPa Cummings wanted his sons to go north.  The segregated South in the mid-twentieth century held limited opportunities for African American men.  All of his son did go north except Jordan, who married young.  Jordan has made a life for himself, with a wife and two sons, but you can’t say that he’s gotten ahead.  He’s worked at a number of jobs, but as the novel opens he’s lost his job delivering coal.  He’s also gambled away his wife’s savings.  Just as Jordan is hitting bottom, his brother Bryant returns from the North.  Bryant has money and opinions, and he seems to be interested in playing the big man to Jordan’s wife and sons.  Sibling rivalry helps Jordan harness his ambition, but he is not prepared for the lengths to which Bryant will go to defeat him.

John Ehle wrote this book when he lived in Chapel Hill, and the fictional Leafwood and Tin Top are widely thought to be modeled on Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Press 53 of Winston-Salem published a 50th anniversary edition of Move Over, Mountain in 2007. The cover art in this posting is from that edition.

 

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Filed under 1950-1959, 1957, Ehle, John, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Orange, Piedmont