Tag Archives: Farming

Jennifer Lohmann. Weekends in Carolina. Don Mills, Ontario: Harlequin, 2014.

weekendsincarolinaFollowing the death of his father, Hank, Trey Harris is left with the family farm located in Durham, North Carolina. He never expected his father to overcome his prejudices and leave the farm to Trey’s gay brother, Kelly, but Trey had hoped their father would sell the farm before he keeled over and forced this burden upon Trey. Planning to sell the farm to the highest bidder, Trey is stunned to discover that his father’s farmer, Max Backstrom, is actually a woman. Soon Trey can’t keep his mind off of what it would be like to kiss Max. How can he want to start something with this woman who can’t separate herself from the farm–the same farm that Trey did everything he could to escape from? Trey has a great job in D.C. with no reason to ever come back to North Carolina. Well, no reason until gay marriage becomes legal and Kelly gets hitched. Then again, who knows if that will ever happen. Continuing to be Max’s landlord would force Trey to visit North Carolina, and the temptation to get involved with this lovely tenant would only grow stronger. This is something Trey just can’t risk.

Maxine “Max” Backstrom grew up on a big farm in Illinois, but Max has always been one for the small farm life. So, after her parents got divorced and her mom moved to Asheville, North Carolina, Max found an ad for a farmer in Durham and packed up her bags. Max had a three-year lease agreement with Hank Harris detailing that she would buy the farm after these three years were up. When Hank dies before the three years are over, the problem is that the agreement was a spoken one and Max doesn’t know if Hank ever put it down on paper. Faced with Hank’s son Trey, who has always hated the farm and just wants to get rid of it, Max is unsure if she’ll even have a farm to work next year. Max either can use all of her savings to buy the farm, or let Trey sell to a developer. If she doesn’t buy, Max will have to start the search for a new farm and lose all of her crops. If she buys the farm and then a tractor breaks down or it’s a bad crop year, Max won’t have any funds to fall back on. All of this, coupled with the fact that she’s discovering that Trey Harris is a man she could fall in love with, might be the undoing of Max’s well-laid plans.

Trey Harris is a country boy who just wants to get lost in the city life. Max Backstrom is a farmer who knows taking risks can lead to losing it all. When their lives become intertwined, both recognize the passion between them waiting to be ignited. Is Max willing to take the risk on buying the farm and/or on a relationship with Trey? Will Trey be able to embrace his down-home roots?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Durham, Lohmann, Jenifer, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Lights, Camera, Novel: Louise Shivers’s Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail

Here to Get My Baby Out of JailTransitioning a work from page to screen is a complex process full of decisions from small details to large abstractions about what to include, what not to include, and what to add. In some of the past posts, there were instances of authors involved in both sides of the process, novel to screenplay. But in many cases, the author of the original work isn’t overseeing the adaptation. Sometimes, like in the instance of Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail and Summer Heat, the story doesn’t translate well between the mediums.

Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail was Louise Shivers’s first novel. Her bio on her publisher’s site notes that Shivers was born in Stantonsburg, but grew up in Wilson. The towns bear a close resemblance to Tarborough, the fictional East Carolina town featured in Shivers’s novel. After a year at Meredith College in Raleigh, Shivers was married. She and her husband relocated to Augusta, Georgia, where they raised their three children.

Shivers was a literary world late-bloomer. At age 40, at the encouragement of her children, she took a creative writing class that eventually produced her first novel. Following its release in 1983, Shivers’s work was selected by USA Today as the “Best First Novel of the Year.” A review in The New York Times praises Shivers’s work. The story is simple and compact; Shivers wrote poetry before she ventured to writing novels. Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail is the tale of a love triangle spun out of control. Roxy Walston is a Depression-era woman stuck on a tobacco farm with her husband Aaron. She’s a young mother, 20 with a 2-year-old daughter, Baby. When Aaron hires a drifter named Jack Ruffin, it leads to an affair that will change all their lives drastically.

The film adaptation was released in 1987, just four years after the novel’s publication. Mitchie Gleason wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. Lori Singer played Roxy. Singer at the time had already starred opposite Kevin Bacon in Footloose. Anthony Edwards, of Revenge of the Nerds, Top Gun, and later ER fame, played Roxy’s husband, Aaron, and Bruce Abbott played Jack Ruffin. Kathy Bates appears in a supporting role, but doesn’t appear in the trailer, which focuses on the three leads. The movie was filmed in North Carolina around Nashville, Robersonville, Tarboro, and Wilson.Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail 20th

Reviews from The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times by Janet Maslin and Shelia Benson recognize good qualities in Summer Heat, the big picture adaptation of the slim novel, Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail. Performances by the actors are commended and Mitchie Gleason’s visuals are appreciated. But the critics complain that Gleason’s script is the weak link in the final product. Maslin observes that “the script is a string of one-idea scenes; sometimes a whole episode seems designed to allow a character to deliver a single line,” and notes that the film’s pacing is off.  Benson also notes that despite the fact Gleason’s script adheres closely — even “slavishly,” she suggests – the force behind the story isn’t there. Sticking straight to the story in this case did not benefit Summer Heat. Benson remarks that the adaptation “lollygags” to its final conclusion rather than showing a “fevered rise and fall” of a pair of doomed lovers tangled in a frenzy of passion.

Benson chides Gleason, whom didn’t take enough risks in re-telling Shivers’s story. The most obvious liberty taken during the adaptation process is the title, which was revised from the longer, song-inspired Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail to the more benign and blockbuster-friendly, Summer Heat. The trailer brandishes the steamy side of the story. The title is emphasized, the words are shown individually between scenes of passion and aggression, and then together. Here’s a link to one version of the movie poster. The visuals, particularly the positioning of Roxy and Jack, are sultry and provocative. However, the writing on the poster skims over the top of the purpose behind the story. Plus, it basically gives away the twist. They’re quite different from the novel’s covers from 1993 and its 2003 pictured in this post in their raw sensuality. Then again, film operates, and profits on, on a more visual level.

Read the original blog post on Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail. The novel is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog, but the film is not. The film does not appear to be available through the Chapel Hill or Durham County Public Libraries. The film is listed on Amazon for sale.

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1983, 1987, Edgecombe, Historical, Shivers, Louise

Shannon Hitchcock. The Ballad of Jessie Pearl. South Hampton, NH: Namelos, 2012.

balladNorth Carolina was a very different place ninety years ago, and no one–especially a young girl–could be certain what her future would be.  Jessie Pearl, a farm girl of fourteen, was encouraged by her mother to think about life beyond the farm. Her mother promised Jessie that if Jessie studied enough to be admitted a teachers’ college, she would find the money to send Jessie.

But as The Ballad of Jessie Pearl opens, Jessie’s mother has died, and Jessie and her pregnant sister Carrie are keeping house for their father and Carrie’s husband.  Carrie delivers a healthy boy, but shortly after Ky’s birth, Carrie is diagnosed with tuberculosis.  Jessie leaves school to nurse her sister through this terrible illness, and after Carrie dies, Jessie assumes the responsibility for raising little Ky.  College becomes a fading dream until a sister-in-law shares her books with Jessie and tutors her.  But in the two years covered by this novel, Jessie and her family experience a number of challenges–challenges that could not be successfully met without the family and community pulling together.   Jessie fears a life of scrubbing, cooking, and working the tobacco fields, but she loves these people and must weigh her dreams against her love for her family and her community.

This warm, engaging novel is based on a true story from the author’s family.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Historical, Hitchcock, Shannon

Cooper West. Dawn in the Orchard. Miami, FL: Dreamspinner Press, 2011.

Dawn in the OrchardHolden, North Carolina is just about the last place Gary Winston ever wanted to be. He moved away from Insbrook, North Carolina, his own stifling hometown, as soon as possible, and college in Chicago was a convenient excuse. His great-aunt Harriet’s death has brought him back to North Carolina, begrudgingly. She named Gary as the heir to her pecan farm and ramshackle home. The housing market around Holden is poor, so Gary doesn’t stand much chance of selling the place, at least not quickly. And, at the present moment, he doesn’t have anywhere better to go.

Gary’s relationship with his boyfriend Roger has fizzled out. Roger couldn’t admit his sexuality openly and he kept their relationship hidden. Roger’s insecurities rubbed off on Gary and manifested as performance anxiety. A professional musician with a performance anxiety is, Gary recognizes, more than a little oxymoronic. Obviously, Gary’s inability to play in front of an audience has stalled his musical career. Since his anxiety surfaced, Gary has become relegated strictly to some spotty studio work. Broke, he’s been testing the patience of his friends through regular couch-surfing. Thankfully, his burdensome inheritance gives him a place to rest his head at night at the very least.

With the prospect of property taxes and his lack of income, Gary starts hitting pavement around Holden. But, small town that it is, there aren’t many job openings. Nobody around town wants to hire experienced barista from a big city up North. The best option left is the harvest from the pecan farm on Great-Aunt Harriet’s property. Turns out that Harriet had a contract with a local family to gather the harvest and one of the farmers looks quite familiar.

Chuck Everett was born and bred in neighboring Cornerstone, another small Southern town. According to Holden’s resident lawyer, Fred George, the Everett’s have lived in Cornerstone “since before the War.” Chuck harvests Harriet Lee’s pecan crop with his father. He also operates one of the many antique shops in Hogan and plays the fiddle on the side. Gary is attracted to Chuck immediately, but he plays it cool. Chuck comes from an old-fashioned family that expects certain behavior and condemns non-traditional lifestyles, and Gary is not certain if Chuck is gay or straight. After Gary and Chuck safely discern each other’s intentions and interests, their relationship begins to blossom. Novelist Cooper West depicts their intimacy with vivid detail. Whether or not Gary and Chuck’s relationship will thrive, depends upon how well both men can compartmentalize and put aside their other problems.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Romance/Relationship, West, Cooper

Judy Hogan. Farm Fresh and Fatal. Wethersfield, CT: Mainly Murder Press, 2013.

Farm Fresh and FatalRiverdell has a brand new farmers’ market, and Penny Weaver has jumped on board as a vendor. She and her neighbor Leroy Hassel are responsible for retailing the harvested crop at the market, but the actual farming is a neighborhood affair that involves several of Penny and her husband Kenneth’s friends and acquaintances. Penny, Leroy, and their crew might grow some beautiful produce and yield some lovely eggs, but they’re first-timers among all the veteran farmers with plenty to learn about market politics. Farming isn’t all sunshine and roses. Penny will be forced to get her hands soiled like the rest of the farmers, but she’ll be digging up more than dirt.

Penny’s decision to shoulder a substantial role with the market causes immediate tension with Kenneth, who is not happy to learn that the market will run until Thanksgiving, which will cut into their annual six-month sojourn to Wales (Kenneth’s homeland) by two months.  He’s also concerned that between her teaching and the market, Penny will overwork herself. Then there are the implications of racism. Penny learns from the market’s manager, Nora, that two of the board members voted against Sammie Hargrave joining the market on the grounds that Sammie is just a “backyard gardener” with her flower arrangements. But Penny suspects that the board members in question voted against Sammie out of uglier motivations.

The career farmers are off to a rocky start themselves. Many of the farmers dislike Giles Dunn’s genetically modified fruit and vegetables. Most of the male farmers can’t stop lusting after Abbie Kidd, daughter of Sibyl Kidd, the resident baker and jelly-maker. Sibyl refuses to compromise with the other farmers and throws tantrums when she does not get the front spot at the market. And nobody likes Kent Berryman, the meddlesome and leering poultry agent. Kent lingers around the market under the excuse that Andy Style, a local agricultural agent, hired him to take photos of the vendors. Kent takes pleasure in inserting himself into the farmers’ business and flirting with any and every woman around.

Just as it seems that the farmers might have come closer to resolving their differences, Kent winds up dead. Or, more specifically, murdered. The police believe that Kent was poisoned after drinking homemade punch at Nora’s stand, which makes Nora their prime suspect. Penny isn’t convinced that Nora was behind Kent’s murder. Sure Nora hated Kent, but so did most of the other farmers. Kent was a difficult man to like. Worse yet, the state of the market is in jeopardy. In light of Kent’s poisoning, the state agricultural department is already considering closing Riverdell’s farmers’ market. With Nora’s freedom and the market’s survival on the line, Penny and Sammie start sleuthing.

Farm Fresh and Fatal is novelist Judy Hogan’s second Penny Weaver mystery. Hogan writes a lively whodunit that will leave readers guessing the identity of the murderer to the very last chapter. The farmers’ market setting is particularly apt. Hogan is also a small farmer who resides in Moncure, North Carolina. She used to participate in the Pittsboro Farmers’ Market. Here in the Triangle, farmers’ markets seem to be enjoying an uptick in popularity. There are markets in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham, and Raleigh. Quite a few of the cities and towns, like Raleigh, have multiple markets. If you’re local to North Carolina, you can search the NC Farm Fresh website to find markets near your home town. So go buy some farm fresh produce and then hunker down and tuck into Hogan’s intriguing novel. Or read about Hogan’s first Penny Weaver mystery in this blog post and learn more about Hogan herself in this article from The Daily Tar Heel.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Chatham, Hogan, Judy, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont

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

W. Ferrell. The Secrets of Sterling Shearin. Kernersville, NC: W. Ferrell, 2013.

Using the device of a diary, this novel tracks the life and emotional development of Sterling Shearin, a young man living in Warren County in the early years of the American republic.  Sterling has been mentored by Nathaniel Macon and through Macon meets other public figures of the period and is exposed to political ideas that shaped the philosophies of the Founding Fathers.  But Sterling doesn’t just live in a world of ideas.  He is a young man, trying to build up a farm, a family, and his position in his community.  Not all of his impulses and actions are noble–his relationship with his wife sours even as he savors the memory of his relationship with an enslaved woman and dallies with another man’s wife.  He finds his way in part by weighing his behavior against what he sees around him. The Secrets of Sterling Shearin does what historical novels are meant to do–it makes clear that this was a different time. Readers can ponder what they would have done had they lived back then.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Ferrell, W., Historical, Piedmont, Warren

Rhonda Riley. The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope. New York: Ecco, 2013.

The Enchanted Life of Adam HopeAfter her Aunt Eva passes away, seventeen-year old Evelyn Roe is charged by her parents to tend to her deceased aunt and uncle’s farm near the fictional town of Clarion, North Carolina. The farm lies twenty-five miles outside of Charlotte. Riley’s story begins at the end of World War II and most of the town’s men are off fighting, if they have not already perished in the wake of the war effort.

With their work at the cotton mill, Evelyn’s parents do not have time to look after the farm. Despite her initial shock at the responsibility, Evelyn quickly adapts to her new circumstances and finds freedoms alongside her obligations. Thanks to her height, her red hair, and her smattering of freckles, Evelyn is teased mercilessly. Like many small towns, Clarion does not take kindly to differences. But on the farm, she develops a loving bond to her family’s land.

On the farm, Evelyn happens upon something odd — a man lodged in the harsh, red clay earth. Evelyn rescues and cares for the disfigured man. Yet the unknown, unnamed man is not what he seems. He possesses strange talents that verge on supernatural. Evelyn and the man who eventually transforms into Adam Hope fall in love. Their connection is profound, both spiritual and sensual. They marry and start a family.

The town of Clarion accepts Adam unequivocally. They appreciate his kind heart, large appetite, and earthy nature. At first. After a tragic incident brings grief to the Hope family, Adam’s unusual behavior elicits discomfort and draws questions from the townspeople. Suddenly, the Hope family finds their way of life endangered. Will Evelyn and Adam be able to restore their standing in the community and maintain their intimate bond? Or will the stress of prying public opinion unravel the Hope family?

First-time novelist Rhonda Riley presents a story with biblical undertones that focuses on unwavering love and that experiments with concepts such as gender and physical manifestations of differences. Her exploration of gender in particular is at times reminiscent of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. She highlights the subtleties and secrets that exist within families. Riley questions ancestry and if people can know one another truly.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Riley, Rhonda, Romance/Relationship

Mia Ross. Circle of Family. New York: Love Inspired, 2012.

When Ridge Collins comes to Harland, North Carolina for his friend Matt’s wedding, he has no intention of staying in the sleepy little farming community.  Ridge’s dramatic entrance–he lands a vintage biplane in a field on the Sawyer farm just hours before the wedding–annoys the wedding organizer, Matt’s older sister Marianne.  Marianne likes everything predictable and orderly, and she is distrustful of showy men.  You can’t blame her.  Her ex-husband, Peter, was a good-looking wheeler-dealer who took advantage of Marianne’s trusting nature, and then dumped her when it suited him.  Only through self-discipline and sacrifice, and help from her extended family, has Marianne been able to make  a good life for her herself and her two children, Kyle and Emily.

Circle of Family unfolds the way that readers expect a romance to proceed.  Ridge stays on to help with the farm while his friend Matt is on his honeymoon.  He is a genial, handy person, and members of the Sawyer clan–including Marianne’s son and daughter–take a liking to him.  Marianne and Ridge spar over her suspicious, cautious nature and his vagabond ways.   Yet Marianne can see the good that Ridge is doing–working in the fields, fixing equipment, coaching the peewee football team, mentoring her son–and Ridge realizes that he is falling in love Marianne and falling out of love with a life without commitments or even a permanent address.  Matters come to a head when Peter, a deadbeat dad who has not seen his children in five years, shows up at the farm demanding to have regular visits with his son.  Marianne fears that Peter will demand full custody of young Kyle, but Peter’s game is more complicated than it appears.  To thwart Peter, Ridge makes an unexpected sacrifice that secures happiness for Marianne and the family that he hopes will soon be his.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship, Ross, Mia

Barbara Arntsen. High on the Hog: A Peri Mason Mystery. United States: CreateSpace, 2012.

Reporter Periwinkle “Peri” Mason is looking forward to a relaxing Carolina fall. Earlier in the year she narrowly avoided becoming a victim while unexpectedly solving a slew of murders on Myrtle Beach, and in her opinion, once was enough. Unfortunately, the universe has other plans for the tough journalist from fictional Lofton, North Carolina.

While walking along the Neuse River in Wayne County near Lofton, Peri’s spirited Jack Russell terrier discovers something truly grisly– a body floating in the shallows. The corpse is that of Curtis Ganner, who was missing for several days. Mysteriously, his truck was found miles upriver, making murder the likely cause of his demise. Curtis worked for the McKeel Processing Plant, which is one of the largest pork producers in eastern North Carolina. The plant’s human fatality rate begins to rise when another missing employee is also found murdered. When a third victim’s head is found among some porcine remains, Peri can’t help herself– she starts investigating.

As she digs into the soft underbelly of the pork industry the intrepid reporter finds not only murder, but industrial espionage. Soon she is knee-deep in pig excrement (literally and figuratively), and more in danger than ever. Will Peri make it out alive this time?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Arnsten, Barbara, Coastal Plain, Duplin, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Suspense/Thriller, Wayne