Tag Archives: Families

Sherryl Woods. Ocean Breeze Novels.

  •  Sand Castle Bay. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.
  • Wind Chime Point. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.
  • Sea Glass Island. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.

The Castle sisters–Emily, Gabriella, and Samantha–are the focus of this short, romantic series.  The sisters love the coastal community of Sand Castle Bay, but each went out into the wider world to make a name for herself.  Emily is an interior designer, Samantha is an actor, and Gabi follower her father into the pharmaceutical industry.  But when they hit a patch of trouble–or when a family member needs them–they return to their little beach town.

Each novel focuses on a particular sister who is at a turning point in her life: Emily in Sand Castle Bay, Gabi in Wind Chime Point, and the eldest sister, Samantha, in Sea Glass Island.  Their grandmother, Cora Jane, is a presence in each novel–not quite needing the sisters’ help, but eliciting the sisters’ concern.  But Cora Jane gives much more than she receives, as she offers advice and engages in matchmaking.  Although the Ocean Breeze novels contain contemporary elements such as age discrimination, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and the war in Afghanistan, at heart these are traditional novels.  Unrequited love, the desire to marry and have children, and the impulse to protect family members–and to meddle in their affairs–drive the action in these nicely linked novels.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels in Series, Romance/Relationship, Series, Woods, Sherryl

Monique Miller. Quiet as It’s Kept. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2011.

Quiet as It's KeptA pretty face, a great body, and a chaste attitude? Morgan Tracy seems too good to be true. Her new husband Will can’t believe his good luck in landing his dream woman. He wonders if Morgan was a god-sent blessing — after all they first met at church. Following a quick romance, Will and Morgan raced to the altar and immediately, but by accident, welcomed a baby son named Isaiah nine months after their wedding. Will doesn’t mind the jump from husband to husband and father. He’s elated when he sets eyes on newborn Isaiah. But there’s trouble lingering over him that casts a dark cloud over his happiness. Three weeks before Isaiah was born, Will got laid off from his successful, six-figure job.

Afraid that he might upset Morgan during the end of her three-month long bed rest, Will decides to delay sharing the unfortunate information with his wife who has been increasingly moody during her pregnancy. Besides, Will is hopeful that he will secure another job before he has to tell Morgan the bad news. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, Will struggles to find a position to replace his lost income.

With Will’s unemployment, Morgan is forced to support the Tracy household, which she reminds Will every day. Seven months after Isaiah’s birth, Will is still out of a job and Morgan is just as temperamental as she was during her pregnancy. But Will attributes her continued sourness to stress at work and their financial strain. He spends his days and nights caring for Isaiah and searching desperately for a job. The toll of his marital discontent in addition to his unemployment and his constant work as a temporary stay-at-home-dad has weighed heavily on Will.

Will accepts more than his fair share of the blame for Morgan’s hostile attitude and her snide behavior toward him. Since being laid off, it seems that Will can’t make Morgan happy. Anything from his attempt to revise the family budget to leaving lights on around the house sets Morgan off.  But when her behavior grows suspicious and even dangerous, Will questions his wife’s intentions. After a few strange accidents, Will realizes that he doesn’t know all that much about his wife’s background. She’s remained closemouthed on the details of her home town and her deceased parents. Maybe Morgan Tracy is too good to be true.

Novelist Monique Miller covers topics of domestic violence, female-on-male violence, and childhood abuse. Miller’s story emphasizes Christian faith. Will is a devout Christian who attends church regularly and prays about the difficulties and troubles in his life. Although tested, Will’s faith is one element that helps him through his ordeal of unemployment, fatherhood, and marital strife. Quiet as It’s Kept delivers plenty of suspense and an interesting twist on a familiar plot line about abuse and deception. Miller is a North Carolina native who graduated from North Carolina Central University and resides in the Raleigh/Durham area.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Miller, Monique, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Suspense/Thriller

Jennifer Estep. Midnight Frost. New York: Kensington Publishing, 2013.

Midnight FrostGwen Frost can’t stop having nightmares. They’re eerily realistic and they all end the same way, with dreamy Logan Quinn, Gwen’s (almost) boyfriend, stabbing her in the chest. Since Jennifer Estep’s last Mythos Academy installment, Logan and Gwen’s developing relationship has been brought to a screeching halt following Gwen’s arrest and trial for the crime of releasing Loki from his imprisonment. Now Gwen has no idea about Logan’s whereabouts. And his absence is weighing heavily on her, along with the increased attention from the rest of the student body. Students don’t just point and stare – they’ve created a phone app to track Gwen’s every move.

She might be Nike’s Champion, selected by the Goddess herself, yet Gwen has her doubts. She isn’t strong or fast like the other students of Mythos Academy who have warrior lineages. Students descend from Vikings or Amazons, or even Spartans. Gwen  is just a Gypsy, albeit a Gypsy with the mysterious skill of psychometry, a magical trait that allows her to learn about people or objects simply through touching them.

And the Reapers want her dead.

During a botched attempt to poison Gwen in the Library of Antiquities, librarian Nickamedes is poisoned instead. Professor Metis works what magic she can to keep Nickamedes alive, but it’s up to Gwen and her friends to seek the antidote to the deadly Serket sap. Their trek leads them to the Denver branch of the Mythos Academy. A rare flower, Chloris ambrosia, grows in the Eir Ruins near the school and contains the antidote to cure Nickamedes’ poisoning. Despite an early threat en route to Denver, the journey feels easy, a little too easy. Sure the Reapers want to kill Gwen. But why are they luring her all the way to Denver?

Midnight Frost is the fifth book in novelist Jennifer Estep’s Mythos Academy series. In this volume, readers will discover a few more details about Gwen’s father, Tyr Forseti, plus some unsavory information about her paternal relatives. There is a map of the school’s Library of Antiquities in the front of the book and a few brief indices at the back of the book on the Warriors and the Magic, the Mythos Academy, the Students, the Adults, and the Gods and the Monsters to get readers entrenched in Gwen’s world. Estep keeps her characters relatable. She merges the supernatural with the everyday; characters possess extraordinary powers yet exhibit normal teenaged impulses too. Estep also blends many strands of mythology. What other book could readers pick up that combines elements of Norse, Egyptian and Greek mythology, and feature a cheeky talking sword?

Young adult readers ages 13 and up will enjoy this mythological urban fantasy series.

If you’re new to this series, start by reading our first entry on Estep’s Mythos Academy. Or, check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, Children & Young Adults, Estep, Jennifer, Mountains, Novels in Series, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Jason Mott. The Returned. Don Mills, Ont: Harlequin MIRA, 2013.

The ReturnedIf someone you loved came back from the dead, exactly as they were before they died, would you want them back in your life again? That’s one of the many questions Agent Martin Bellamy asks Lucille and Harold Hargrave.

People around the world have begun to return from the dead suddenly and without explanation. Agent Bellamy works for the International Bureau of the Returned, an organization that was shaped up hastily in the wake of this new phenomenon. The Returned seek out their families and friends and the Bureau helps reconnect them to their loved ones. Despite the Bureau’s involvement, they are just as baffled as the rest of the world. In truth, the Bureau has simply been “counting people and giving them directions home,” plus filing some paperwork in the process. The Returned can appear anywhere, at any time. Lucille and Harold’s eight year-old son Jacob is found in a village near Beijing.

On August 15, 1966, Jacob Hargrave died on his eighth birthday. His death was accidental and tragic. Since Jacob’s passing, his parents sidestepped their grief. Instead of acknowledging their pain, Lucille and Harold avoided the topic. Decades later, when Jacob reappears, Harold can’t recall Jacob’s name. In his advancing age, Harold has started shrinking, a factor he attributes to his recently curbed smoking habit. By contrast, Lucille has remained in comparably solid physical shape for her age. But nothing makes Harold feel his age so much as the newly returned Jacob, preserved as an eight year-old. Lucille eases instinctively back into her role as mother, though her behavior surprises her. Still Harold and Lucille’s faded memories and the awkward gap between their old age and Jacob’s youth reveals the difficulty of passed time. Suspicions, particularly on Harold’s part, that Jacob is not a real living and breathing person doesn’t help matters. Although Harold and Lucille have been reunited with their son, it won’t be easy to pick up right where they left off.

Their reunion is not an insular event though. As the numbers of the Returned increase, people start to speak out against the “miracle.” The True Living Movement was founded as a campaign to support the living. It tended to attract anti-government enthusiasts. Supporters of True Living are concerned with reestablishing the natural order of the world, which means sending the Returned back to where they supposedly belong. Although True Living is more extremist in its approach, the US government is equally uneasy about the Returned. The government’s mandates for the Returned increase quickly from home confinement to containment in special camps. Tensions mount as small-town Arcadia, and the world, is ripped apart, seam by seam, from the panic surrounding the Returned.

The Returned is poet Jason Mott’s first novel. Mott has written two poetry collections previously. He holds a BA and MFA in creative writing from UNC-Wilmington. His novel was selected by Plan B, Brad Pitt’s production company, to be adapted into a television series. Mott’s background as a poet is obvious; his writing is lyrical and sophisticated. The novel is told in the third-person with standard enumerated chapters, but Mott intersperses the central story and its chapters with vignettes of the Returned. Mott also forms convincing relationships and connections between his characters, like the playful jabs between Lucille and Harold and Jacob’s goofy jokes. Don’t read the novel expecting pure science fiction or detailed answers at the end. There are no satisfying answers here. Mott explores memory and time as well as loss and second chances with loved ones.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. And read this article from The Daily Tar Heel to learn more about the inspiration behind Jason Mott’s novel and his writing process.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Mott, Jason

Lisa Wingate. The Prayer Box. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2013.

The Prayer Box“I don’t believe it,” I answer. “Men are always trying to solve the mysteries of God, but they never will.”

She plucks a whelk shell from the sand, contemplates it, turning it over with her bone-thin fingers. “There will always be another mystery. God is infinite.”

Ninety-one year-old Iola Anne Poole doesn’t have the best reputation. The people of Fairhope regard her as a hermit and a squatter. Word around town is that Iola wormed the Benoit House away from its rightful owners. Girard Benoit’s nephews intended to sell the estate to a group of locals who had grand plans to turn the Victorian house into an upscale beach resort on Hatteras Island. But supposedly Iola intervened and manipulated the old Mr. Benoit, who was not in a clear frame of mind. Or so the story goes.

Meanwhile, thirty-three year-old Tandi Jo Reese has recently started renting Iola’s nearby cottage. Desperate and down on her luck, Tandi fled from an abusive and criminal husband with her two children, JT (age 9) and Zoey (age 14). Without a home, the cottage was the best deal Tandi could find, apart from sleeping in her car. But her money is running out. The rent is already overdue and Tandi is struggling to find a job that will hire her since she is too afraid to provide any details of her former life.

Tandi grew up in a family of slick smooth talkers – her father, her mother and her sister, Gina – who merge fact with fiction to get what they want. Her home life was tumultuous. Then again, it still is. Although Tandi has escaped from her husband, Trammel, she sees the disillusionment in her kids’ faces. Up until Tandi decided to leave, she hadn’t been the world’s greatest mom. After an accident, she became hooked on Oxycontin and walked around in a doped up haze. Because of her tough upbringing and her abusive husband, Tandi hasn’t trusted anyone in a long time, if ever. Now JT and Zoey’s faith in their mother is wavering.

One day, not long after Tandi and her kids have moved into the cottage, she notices a suspicious lack of movement in Iola’s house. When she investigates, she finds Iola’s body lying peacefully in a bed. At first, Tandi is worried that hubbub surrounding Iola’s death might draw notice to the fact that she’s behind on the rent. But Tandi isn’t aware of Iola’s general unpopularity around Fairhope. Tandi’s financial woes aren’t a complete secret though. One of the lay people at the Fairhope Fellowship Church strikes a bargain with Tandi: she will clean out Iola’s house in exchange for her rent.

Tandi accepts the deal. But it isn’t an easy job. The house has been damaged by the most recent hurricane. Architecturally, the house is unsound. Buckets are scattered throughout the rooms to catch dripping water. And Iola hoarded a massive stockpile of food from home grocery deliveries. Canned goods flooding out of the pantry shock Tandi, especially since she can barely afford food for JT and Zoey without skipping meals herself. However, the prayer boxes are the best surprise that Tandi stumbles upon.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of a prayer box, check out this blog entry by Lisa Wingate on making and using prayer boxes. The basic concept behind a prayer box is to create a box or decorate a pre-existing box, which the owner will fill with prayers and reflections, or even favorite scriptures. Every year, for eighty-one years, Iola fashioned a prayer box and filled it with letters to her father. As Tandi combs through the boxes she relates the struggles in Iola’s life to her own. Strangely, the lessons in Iola’s letters resurface and guide her through this trying chapter in her life. And in the process, Tandi discovers that Iola was not the woman that many presumed her to be.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, Religious/Inspirational, Wingate, Lisa

Diane Chamberlain. Necessary Lies. New York: St. Martin’s, 2013.

Necessary LiesJane Forrester’s (née Mackie) husband, Robert, can’t understand why his new wife wants to work. Neither can her mother nor any of the stay-at-home wives in her imposed social circle. When Jane and Robert first met, her quirks beguiled him. She wasn’t cut from the same cloth of the prototypical 1960s woman. Now that they’re official newlyweds, Robert wishes that Jane would join the Raleigh Junior League and derive satisfaction in being a physician’s wife, as well as the future mother of his unborn children. But Jane wants a chance at a brief career before children. She is sensitive and idealistic and interested in helping others through work. She gets hired as a social worker in the Department of Public Welfare shortly before their wedding. Robert tolerates Jane’s job, however he makes his desire for children and his short timetable known. With an M.D., Robert has ascended the socio-economic ladder and he is concerned acutely with fitting into his more well-heeled surroundings.

Robert is not thrilled when he learns that Jane will conduct field work alone in the fictional rural Grace County. Field work entails visiting the families of the cases that the social worker manages to monitor their needs and progress. The social worker executes any actions or files any paperwork considered necessary for the greater good. Jane’s two first cases are the Hart and Jordan families who live and work on Davidson Gardiner’s farm. She neglects her boss’s advice and becomes invested emotionally in the Hart family, leading her to a series of choices that could violate the procedures of the Department of Public Welfare and negate the defined purpose of her position. But Jane feels unable to accept the rules as they’ve been handed to her. She is disturbed by how the department enforces its own code of morality and communicates its actions deceptively to the parties involved.

According Charlotte Werkmen, Jane’s boss and former social worker in charge of the case, fifteen year-old Ivy Hart is the last chance for the Hart family. Ivy’s older sister, Mary Ella has already given birth to a baby named William. Mary Ella is beautiful and slow, which Charlotte regards as a dangerous combination. Ivy and Mary Ella’s father is dead and mother is an institutionalized schizophrenic. They live in a farmhouse with their diabetic grandmother, Nonnie. Ivy worries about her family’s security in the farmhouse. Nonnie is increasingly unable to work and she has little regard for her health, indulging frequently in sugar. Because Nonnie is petulant and ornery and Mary Ella is unreliable and often missing, Ivy is the nucleus forced to mother and to hold the family together. By government standards, Ivy qualifies at a functioning level, but barely. She has an IQ of 80 and Petit Mal epilepsy. Charlotte warns Jane to watch Ivy carefully — if Ivy winds up pregnant, all her opportunities will evaporate.

Veteran novelist Diane Chamberlain deals with the sexism and racism prevalent during the 1960s and provides a historical basis to Necessary Lies. She alternates the story between Ivy and Jane’s points-of-view primarily. The novel explores the issue of people’s authority over their bodies. Chamberlain illustrates this point from both perspectives: a doctor refusing to prescribe Jane birth control without her husband’s permission to a eugenics program masked to its recipients as benevolent healthcare. The themes of control and consent reappear over the course of the novel, where institutions and people are given the power to make personal judgements for others. Additionally, the book questions the idea of people who are classified as “incapable” or “unfit” by official sanctioning. Who, if anyone, should have the agency to make decisions for those deemed “incapable” or “unfit”? Chamberlain offers an absorbing read on a fictionalized portrayal of a regrettable segment of North Carolina’s history.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Chamberlain, Diane, Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Wake

Robert Morgan. The Road from Gap Creek. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2013.

The Road from Gap CreekLife hasn’t gotten any easier for the Richards family. Time has only moved onward. In his sequel to Gap Creek, novelist Robert Morgan looks to the next generation to forge the way in The Road from Gap Creek. Annie Richards Powell replaces her mother, Julie Richards the original narrator of Gap Creek. Annie recounts snapshots of the Richards family during the Great Depression and World War II.

Readers are punched hard and early on with the death of Julie and Hank’s favorite son, Troy. The news devastates the family. Troy volunteered in the Civilian Conservation Corps where he met a recruiter for the Army Air Corps. The Army sent Troy to work on a base in Georgia. He reassured his family that he wouldn’t get sent into active duty. Until the Army shipped him off to England.

Annie, upon the news of Troy’s death, is propelled into the past. She recollects the family’s history in a stream of events: the move from Gap Creek to Green River, Troy’s beloved dog, Old Pat, and later Troy’s less accepted fiancée, Sharon, Velmer’s typhoid fever, fallout from the Depression, acting in high school plays, church life, bootleggers. Morgan does not adhere to chronological order, as he shifts between Annie’s recollections and present day. Her stories aren’t arranged in a strictly logical sequence. Rather, they present the effect of a patchwork memory. Morgan deftly combines Annie’s string of loosely collected memories, so that stories that seem like confined events later make sense in the scheme of the family’s history. He evokes a true feeling of everyday life where the characters on the page have breath and a pulse.

But most convincingly of all, Morgan depicts the force of family. Annie emphasizes the lack of opportunity in dead-end Green River, for herself and for Troy. She dreams of acting, traveling elsewhere, and owning fine clothes. She wants out of Green River. But when she’s offered the chance to model, possibly legitimate, possibly a scam, Annie never finds out. During that moment, she realizes she couldn’t leave her family that depends so much on her behind. Annie does not exist in isolation; she is a strand in the Richards family web. This fact becomes much truer and resonates much stronger when Annie begins her own family. The microcosm of the Richards family and its history echoes that of people and history at large.

Fans of Gap Creek will enjoy this chapter of the Richards family’s struggles and joys, but newcomers will be equally charmed by Morgan’s naturalistic story-telling. Morgan could write the Gap Creek saga ad infinitum. It’s a slice of life, and an interesting one to dig into. The Road from Gap Creek observes a period of momentous and irrevocable change in American history, and the Richards family history.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Historical, Morgan, Robert, Mountains

Joan Opyr. Shaken and Stirred. Ann Arbor, MI: Bywater Books, 2011.

shakenTar Heels know that you can’t go home again–but sometimes you have to.  Poppy Koslowski has been living clear across the country from her loving, but dysfunctional, family.  Growing up, Poppy and her mother lived with her maternal grandparents in Wake County, North Carolina.  Or, that’s how it was until her grandfather, Hunter, ran off with the boozy mother of Poppy’s friends.  Before too long, Poppy herself left–to college, then graduate school, to jobs, moving ever further north and west, until she settled in Portland, Oregon.

As Shaken and Stirred opens, Poppy is recovering from a hysterectomy and is feeling sore and sad.  Poppy’s long-time BFF, Abby, who is a nurse, is keeping a watchful eye on her, and she’s present when Poppy gets the phone call telling her that her grandfather is dying.  Poppy can’t refuse her mother’s request that she come home to help her and Nana through this difficult time.  Abby volunteers to come too–Poppy is not back to full strength and Wake County is home turf for Abby too.  Abby can visit with her mother and help Poppy’s family make sense of Hunter’s medical condition.

But being back in North Carolina brings back so many memories for Poppy–her parents’ separation, her grandmother’s strict sense of propriety, her attempts to fit in at school and at home, her grandfather’s drinking.  Even as a child, she knew that her grandfather’s behavior was irresponsible, but he took an interest in her and took her on some of the most memorable adventures of her youth.  But all that came to an end when Hunter took off with Jean–the mother of Poppy’s first love, Susan.  Now Hunter’s whole life will be reviewed, and that old can of worms–and many others–will be opened.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Opyr, Joan, Piedmont, Wake

C. J. Lyons. Black Sheep. New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2013.

Black SheepCaitlyn Tierney likes to keep her enemies closer than her friends. In fact, she doesn’t like to be close to her friends at all. A skilled FBI agent, Tierney is a loner by choice. She pushes away well-meaning coworkers trying to bond and casual boyfriends interested in getting serious. Caitlyn isn’t much of a rule-follower. Sometimes her unorthodox approach ruffles the attitudes of more rigid agents. She suspects they would like to goad her into quitting. Tierney doesn’t have total contempt for standard regulations and textbook procedures though. She just recognizes that bad guys don’t play by the rules, so occasionally the good guys can’t either, not if they want to win.

Without friendships, Tierney’s life is her work, and she feels no regrets for committing herself fully to her job, even though it has nearly killed her twice. She is dedicated to her career despite recent difficulty that has left her scarred, literally and figuratively. However, Caitlyn is no stranger to trauma. And regardless of the physical danger and the strict protocol, she loves teaching fledgling officers. Also, her work fulfills her beloved, deceased father’s unrealized aspiration of joining the FBI.

Caitlyn grew up in the fictional mountain town of Evergreen, North Carolina. Her father, Sean, dreamed of joining the FBI, but once he met Caitlyn’s mother, Jessalyn, he abandoned his goals and became a sheriff’s deputy instead. Love overruled his ambitions. Although Sean found contentment in a future different from his initial life plan, Jessalyn never seemed satisfied with their lives. The Tierney family’s farmhouse and their small-town disappointed Jessalyn. She juggled two jobs and strove to improve their standing. When Caitlyn decided to join the FBI, Jessalyn did not approve of her only child’s career choice. Rather, Jessalyn considered it a waste of all her effort to improve the family’s stature. Needless to say, Caitlyn and Jessalyn’s relationship is strained.

But mysterious circumstances surrounding Caitlyn’s father, Sean, and her childhood friend Vonnie’s father, Eli Hale is the major source of strain within the Tierney family. After Eli was accused of murdering a Cherokee tribal elder, Sean was forced to arrest him. Like Caitlyn and Vonnie, Sean and Eli were close friends, so the arrest disturbed Sean. He argued in defense of Eli and believed firmly in his friend’s innocence. Sean’s persistence came close to costing him his job. More unfortunately however, it cost him his life. After the toll of sticking up for Eli, Sean committed suicide. Eli was convicted. And Caitlyn carried indelible scars into her future.

Now, twenty-six years later, the man Tierney holds responsible for her father’s death attempts to contact her. Eli’s youngest daughter Lena has gone missing and he begs Caitlyn to help look for her. At first, Caitlyn refuses to listen to Eli’s desperate request. Strong, unsettled memories of the past draw her into the case. Before she went missing, Lena was rooting around for evidence to verify her father’s innocence. During the unofficial manhunt, Tierney runs across a distinctive collection of clues–zoo animals, a casino, and a motorcycle club–that relate to Lena’s disappearance and her father’s strange suicide.

Before she started writing, novelist C.J. Lyons was a pediatric ER doctor. This is her second novel focused on FBI agent Caitlyn Tierney, yet it could be read easily as a stand-alone story. Lyons’ first Caitlyn Tierney novel was Hollow Bones. Black Sheep packs a surprising ending that might hoodwink even the best armchair mystery detectives.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Granville, Jackson, Lyons, C. J., Mountains, Piedmont

Ann Hite. The Storycatcher. New York: Gallery Books, 2013.

The Storycatcher“I heard tell there was a colored woman’s ghost who walked the Ridge. She was what old-timers called a story-catcher. Her job was to set life stories straight, ‘cause the Lord only knew how many were all twisted in a knot.”

Ann Hite’s The Storycatcher is a Southern Gothic that will keep readers awake at night tracing the interconnections between the different families and characters. Hite’s novel is lush, complex and ambitious in style. She splits the tale between location: Black Mountain, North Carolina and Darien, Georgia and time: the action occurs in the 1930s but there are letters and recollections from the late 1800s. Like any true Gothic, Hite incorporates paranormal elements. A few of the primary characters are no longer living. They are known as “haints” to the people of Black Mountain. Essentially, they are ghosts who are waiting for their stories to be finished.

Although the story has several voices, it centers around two young girls named Shelly Parker and Faith Dobbins. Shelly is a servant to the Dobbins family. As a rule, she dislikes the Dobbins clan. Pastor Dobbins, the patriarch of the family, exerts his influence over the town. The mountain people of the area relent before Pastor Dobbins’ divine authority. Although his title gives him power however, the locals doesn’t respect Pastor Dobbins so much as fear him. Pastor Dobbins is a fire and brimstone preacher who speaks of eternal damnation. Regardless of his theological trade, he is an evil man motivated by secrets and violence. But Shelly has greater initial contempt for Pastor Dobbins’ spoiled daughter, Faith, who orders her around on silly tasks. “Miss Prissy” Faith is “the neediest white girl,” who, in Shelly’s eyes, doesn’t lift a finger. What truly agitates Shelly is Faith’s closeness to her mother, Amanda, and her brother, Will.

However, when shrouded secrets emerge and point toward Pastor Dobbins, the girls investigate. In fact, they are forced together out of necessity. Shelly can see spirits; Faith is haunted by spirits, namely Arleen Brown who died during childbirth five years prior and was buried with her infant boy. Arleen alludes to the fact that she did not become pregnant of her own accord. Arleen occupies Faith’s body and compels the novel forward. What stories will Shelly and Faith find that are left to be told?

The Storycatcher dwells on the theme of retribution. Hite adopts a splintered narrative that features multiple perspectives, specifically six female point-of-view characters. She also braids in mountain superstitions and pieces of folklore, including charm quilts, death quilts, and hoodoo. These traditions, along with the racially-charged environment of the South during the 1800s and 1930s, reiterate the sense of interrelation and the desire for vengeance to adjust past inequities.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, Historical, Hite, Ann, Mountains, Suspense/Thriller