Tag Archives: Great Depression

Theresa Cocolin. The Last Rose of Summer. Morrisville, NC: Lulu.com, 2008.

In this introspective novel we follow the narrator, Mandy, from her early childhood through to middle age.  Initially, her family is poor, but stable, in Depression-era North Carolina.  When her brothers leave the farm and her mother dies, Mandy’s life takes a turn for the worse. One day she kills her drunken, abusive father and then is sent to Dorothea Dix Hospital.  During her years at Dix, she comes to understand herself and other people, and upon release finds her way to love and a more normal life.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Cocolin, Theresa, Piedmont, Wake

Sandra E. Bowen. This Day’s Madness. New York: iUniverse, 2000.

Trapeze artist Frankie is the young, orphaned star of the Doub Circus. When Frankie’s parents died they left her in the care of the circus owner and he and the other performers became her family. That Frankie is African American does not matter to them, but since she can pass as white, it is kept a secret in order to avoid controversy. On the circus’s first trip into the South, Frankie’s background is revealed and she is taken from the circus by members of the Granston, NC community. She is placed in an orphanage but after standing up for herself to a cruel authority figure, she is moved to a reform school. Eventually she is adopted, renamed Thomasena, and allowed to finish growing up outside institutions, but it is more than six years before she is free to leave Granston again.

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Filed under 2000, 2000-2009, Bowen, Sandra E., Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont

Ron Rash. Serena. New York: Ecco, 2008.

Set in 1929, Serena begins with timber-baron George Pemberton bringing his new wife from Boston to the North Carolina Mountains. The wife is the titular Serena, an ambitious and intelligent woman who is a good match for her husband and who quickly settles into life in the lumber camp. But as many of her material desires are met, she also faces dissatisfactions due to uncertain investors, the presence of Pemberton’s illegitimate child, and the U.S. government’s attempts to buy land to form Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Her ambitions and cruelty grow. In addition to portraying Serena as a Lady MacBeth-like character, author Ron Rash also presents a look at early environmentalism and shows the harsh and dangerous world of timber labor during the Great Depression. Serena was listed as one of the best books of 2008 by The New York Times, Amazon.com and Publishers Weekly.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Haywood, Historical, Mountains, Rash, Ron

David Smith Hubbell. Flat Rock Harvest. Chapel Hill, NC: Chapel Hill Press, 2006.

For Doug, a medical student from Durham, finding a summer job during the depression years is a difficult task. He travels west and eventually finds a position at a pharmacy in Hendersonville, where he pours sodas and sells tonics. As he becomes more a part of the town, he also becomes involved in two more controversial, and certainly very illegal, activities: moonshining and abortion. The author Thomas Wolfe makes a brief appearance and there are recurring references to his book Look Homeward, Angel.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, Henderson, Historical, Hubbell, David Smith, Mountains

Carolyn Rawls Booth. A Chosen Few. Chapel Hill, NC: Chapel Hill Press, 2008.

A Chosen Few is the third in Carolyn Booth’s trilogy of books that recount the struggles of rural, coastal North Carolinians during the 1920s and 1930s. While the plot revolves around the Ryan and McBride families and their relationships, much of the characters’ attention and activities are directed toward the the Penderlea Homestead Farms and other New Deal politics/projects of the Great Depression. The brainchild of Wilmington businessman Hugh MacRae, the Penderlea Homesteads were meant to be part of a cooperative, self-sufficient “farm city” in Pender County that would provide resettlement and relief for bankrupt farmers. The author was born in Bladen County and her family lived on a Penderlea Homestead until 1939; A Chosen Few is loosely based on her family and its experiences.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Bladen, Booth, Carolyn Rawls, Coast, Coastal Plain, Historical, Novels in Series, Onslow, Pender

Louise Shivers. Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail. Winston-Salem: John F. Blair, 2003.

Roxy Walston is a young wife and mother on a Tarborough, N.C. tobacco farm in 1937. Farmlife is simple and tough, and Roxy feels restless, especially when Jack Ruffin is hired to help with the harvest. Roxy feels an instant attraction to Jack and is soon faced with choices that could change her forever. When Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail was first published in 1983, it was praised for its tender evocation of life on a tobacco farm and was named the best first novel of the year by “USA Today.” It was also made into the North Carolina-filmed movie Summer Heat in 1987.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2003, Edgecombe, Historical, Shivers, Louise

David Schulman. The Past is Never Dead: A Gritz Goldberg Mystery. Winston-Salem: John F. Blair, 2004.

Gritz Goldberg is a psychiatrist in his hometown of Asheville, N.C., and is working in the same mental hospital where he once spent time as a child. Gritz becomes involved in a decades-old murder case when a local man with a heavy conscience confesses to him that the wrong man was convicted for the 1939 killing of a young woman at the Battery Park Hotel. As Gritz delves into Asheville’s past, he uncovers interesting – – and sometimes disturbing — facts about some of the city’s prominent citizens. Many of Schulman’s characters are based on actual historical figures, including the colorful U.S. Senator Robert Rice Reynolds and the prominent anti-semite William Dudley Pelley. In the course of chasing the down the facts of the case, Gritz learns a great deal about Asheville’s Jewish community in the 1930s.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2004, Buncombe, Mountains, Mystery, Schulman, David

Doug Marlette. The Bridge. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.

Pick Cantrell, a successful but controversial editorial cartoonist, has just moved from New York to his hometown in North Carolina. In the course of adjusting to his new life, Cantrell learns about his family’s connections to area’s rich textile history, most notably his grandmother Lucy’s involvement in a mill workers’ strike in the 1930s. The novel is set in the fictional town of Eno, North Carolina, most likely based on Hillsborough, and includes scenes in Chapel Hill.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2001, Marlette, Doug, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Orange, Piedmont

Tony Earley. Jim the Boy. Boston: Little, Brown, 2000.

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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Filed under 2000, 2000-2009, Earley, Tony, Historical, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Rutherford

Daphne Athas. Entering Ephesus. New York: Viking, 1971.

The Bishop family has fallen on hard times. Forced to leave their large and comfortable house in Connecticut, they move to the small, provincial town of Ephesus, a fictional Piedmont town based on Chapel Hill. In the midst of the chaos of relocating and adjusting to life in the south, the lively Bishop daughters — Irene, Urie, and Loco Poco — are just entering adolescence. Their thoughts and observations enliven the novel, which is set amidst depression and war in the 1930s and 1940s. There is a small community named Ephesus in Davie County, but this novel is clearly set in a Piedmont college town. Entering Ephesus won the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for the best work of fiction by a North Carolinian in 1972.

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Filed under 1970-1979, 1971, Athas, Daphne, Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Orange, Piedmont