Tag Archives: Widows

Elizabeth Spann Craig. Death at a Drop-In. United States: CreateSpace, 2013.

In the fictional town of Bradley, North Carolina, Myrtle Clover isn’t looking forward to attending “society matron,” Cosette Whitlow’s drop-in. Myrtle has only agreed to attend because her best friend, Miles, has asked her to come and deter the widows from descending upon him. As a lady in her 80s, Myrtle might not look too threatening, but at six feet tall and toting a cane, she can intimidate when she wants.

Cosette is always mentioning to Myrtle’s son Red how much her own mother enjoys living in Greener Pastures Retirement Home. If not talking about that, she’s bragging on how advanced her grandson is or trying to take over someone’s charity position. She kindly lends a hand throughout all of town, but there is nothing kindly about the way she deals with people. Myrtle and Miles hope to show their faces and head out soon afterwards. But, when the two walk in on a small spectacle in the kitchen involving Cosette, Felix, and an enraged Sybil, Myrtle’s interest is peaked. Is there an affair going on between Felix and Cosette?

However, things soon settle back down into boring sophistication and Miles and Myrtle are ready to make their exit. When the two can’t find Cosette to thank her, Cosette’s husband Lucas enlists them to help search her out. Myrtle discovers Cosette in the yard; she’s been hit over the head with a croquet mallet and Red, the chief of police, is called in. There are many suspects in this case and Myrtle is determined to investigate and write up the story for the town newspaper. There’s a new cub reporter in town though who might stand in her way. But, when a second murder occurs, Myrtle starts putting information together, and it looks like she’ll either end up with the scoop or in a grave of her own. How will Myrtle Clover work her way out of this one?

Death at a Drop-In is the fifth book in the Myrtle Clover Mystery series. Myrtle Clover remains just as sprightly as ever and is written proof that the young aren’t the only ones who can be the center of an exciting story.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Lights, Camera, Novel: Allan Gurganus’s Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells AllOn-screen, the Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is much like its novel counterpart. Clocking in at a hefty 718 pages, Allan Gurganus’ debut work is no quick read. And the miniseries isn’t exactly a half-hour sitcom either. Given the length and the detail of the novel, it’s not surprising it would take four hours to adapt the epic life story of Confederate widow, Lucy Marsden.

Lucy’s life story was heavily influenced by her marriage at age fifteen to Captain Willie Marsden, thirty-five years her senior, and, until his death, the last surviving Confederate soldier. Gurganus’ celebrated novel is told from the perspective of the still spunky ninety-nine year-old Lucy who resides in a North Carolina nursing home.

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All spent eight months on the New York Times Best Seller list and sold more than four million copies. The novel also won Gurganus the Sue Kaufman Prize from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. All this proving it was worth the seven long years it took to Gurganus to write Confederate Widow.

Gurganus was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He drew a great amount of inspiration from his grandmother, Willie Ethel Pitt Gurganus, who he would visit during his lunch breaks when in grade school. Despite their time together, she never shared her life stories with him. Lucy is his imagination of his grandmother’s experiences as a Confederate-era woman.

Right around the release of the novel in 1989, New York Magazine wrote a detailed profile on Gurganus, still available here through Google Books. The miniseries, which was broadcast on CBS, starred Diane Lane, Donald Sutherland, Cicely Tyson, Anne Bancroft and Blythe Danner. Lane played Lucy from teenage to middle age. Bancroft portrayed elderly Lucy.

Confederate Widow Miniseries

Photo courtesy of the Sonar Entertainment website.

The adaptation won four Emmys (Art Direction, Costume Design, Hairstyling, and Best Supporting Actress) out of its nine nominations. The miniseries was filmed in Madison, Georgia rather than North Carolina. The novel was set in the fictional town of Falls, North Carolina.

Gurganus did not write the screenplay, which was instead adapted by Joyce Eliason. The New York Times review of the miniseries indicates that Gurganus played a small part in the production. And, Gurganus in turn spoke positively of the television adaptation.

In 2003, Ellen Burstyn starred as Lucy in a theatrical adaptation of Confederate Widow on Broadway. A critic from Variety notes that it was a very long two hours and twenty minutes, attributed partially to the fact that the page-to-stage adaptation was conceived as a one-woman show. Apparently the production closed after one official show. A few years later in 2007, the novel was adapted again for the stage, this time by Gurganus, as a part of the Theater of the American South Festival. The production was pared down to a one-act, one-woman play that was better received than its ill-fated Broadway predecessor.

Visit Sonar Entertainment’s site for a short clip from the miniseries and some production shots. But if you’re interested in watching the miniseries for yourself, copies of the movie are available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog in two locations in addition to the novel. The original blog post on Gurganus’ novel is available here.

Sources consulted: Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, New York Times, News & Observer (two different articles), People, Sonar Entertainment, Variety (two different articles), Wikipedia (Allan Gurganus, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All)

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, Gurganus, Allan, Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Edward P. Norvell. Ocracoke between the Storms. Winston Salem, NC: Distributed by John F. Blair, 2013.

Ocracoke between the StormsFour months ago, Luke Harrison lost his wife of four years, Karen, in a fatal car accident. Without Karen, Luke cannot find much purpose in his life. Luke’s father died when he was a baby and his mother was incarcerated following her addiction to drugs, so he spent his adolescence drifting through foster homes. Karen was Luke’s closest and only true family. Wracked with grief, Luke drives from his home in Kannapolis to Ocracoke Island where he intends to end his suffering by drowning himself. But just as the rough whitecaps are dragging him under, an unexpected bystander rescues Luke from the freezing water. Hank Kilgo, a retired Coast Guard officer, is Luke’s savior. After Hank pulls Luke to safety, he insists that Luke rest for the night at his home with him and his wife, Cora.

Luke continues to stay with the Kilgo family much longer than his initial invitation. The natives welcome Luke unconditionally. Before he knows it, Luke is immersed in the area’s island culture and takes on odd jobs. Novelist Edward P. Norvell portrays the intimate community of Ocracoke with painstaking detail. Norvell’s Ocracoke is a vibrant small town brimming with special traditions such as the Ocracoke Festival, volunteer efforts like a radio station-sponsored bachelor auction, and of course, local politics concerning the invasive Park Service and their protection of the loggerhead turtle population. The most colorful town character is Thomas Michael Joiner or TMJ for short. TMJ and Luke are a union of opposites. Where Luke is humble and modest, TMJ is gregarious and brazen. Despite the pair’s differences, Luke and TMJ become close friends, and TMJ helps Luke feel at home in Ocracoke, particularly amongst the other single twentysomethings on the island.

Slowly but surely, Luke forms a lasting attachment to Ocracoke. At first he tries to keep the situation casual–from his living arrangements, to his employment, to even his love life. The fact that Luke develops a love life only a few months after Karen’s death confuses him. During the night, he dreams of Karen and copes with his guilt over her accident and what he might have done to prevent it. The idea of replacing Karen so quickly strikes Luke as callous. Whether Luke is aware or not, Ocracoke and its people restore meaning to his life and help Luke survive his heartbreak. Ocracoke between the Storms is a tale of redemption and moving past tragedy in life. Norvell has written three other novels, Southport, Shadows, and Portsmouth, all of which occur in coastal locations around the state. Clearly, Norvell derives a large amount of inspiration from the beaches of North Carolina.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Hyde, Norvell, Edward P., Romance/Relationship

Tyora Moody. When Rain Falls. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2012.

whenWhen she was a young girl, Candace Johnson was present when her mother was killed by a drunken, abusive lover.  Aunt Maggie took Candace in but her home was one of harsh, religious judgments, and Candace fled as soon as she could.  In the years since Candace made a good life for herself, marrying a police detective, raising two children, and opening her own beauty salon in Charlotte, North Carolina.

But good friends and a loving spouse are no protection from the violence of the world.  Candace’s husband is killed, and two years later the murder remains unsolved. Candace has kept herself together for the sake of her children, but as When Rain Falls opens, she is hit with another hard blow: her best friend, Pamela Coleman, is murdered in her own garage.  Her husband’s former partner is one of the detectives investigating Pamela’s murder.  The other investigator, Darnell Jackson, is new to the Charlotte police force, but not new to Charlotte.  The failure of the police department to solve her husband’s murder prompts Candace to investigate Pamela’s death; she just can’t loose her two soul mates without getting some answers–and some justice.

The two investigations–Candace’s and the official one–turn up unpleasant facts about Pamela, her law firm, and some respected people in her social circle.  Candace and Detective Jackson butt heads over Candace’s activities even as they find themselves thrown together (and attracted to each other) in various social situations.  The author does a good job of balancing several threads of the story–Candace’s backstory, her struggle as a mother and as a Christian, the possibility of a new romance, and the murder investigations–and concluding them in a satisfying way.  The community of family, friends, and clients who support Candace is well drawn, adding another layer to the novel.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Mecklenburg, Moody, Tyora, Mystery, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Lucy Arlington. Every Trick in the Book. New York: Berkley, 2013.

everytrickinthebookLila Wilkins has reached her goal of becoming a literary agent at A Novel Idea, a publishing house in small-town Inspiration Valley, North Carolina. The position is a serious step up from her first job at A Novel Idea as an intern, and with her new title comes a salary allowing her to purchase a dream home in the cozy town. Everything seems perfect — her twenty-something son, Trey, is happy living and working at the nearby Red Fox Co-operative farm, and she has an exciting new relationship with handsome local police officer Sean Griffiths. Of course, just when everything is looking up, an element of danger appears.

The trouble starts with an unsettling horror manuscript Lila receives by mistake. As the agent assigned to romance and cozy mysteries, Lila’s usual reading is lighthearted and fun. This manuscript is full of blood and gore, and she passes it off to her colleague, the literary agent assigned to thrillers and horror novels. Unfortunately, the manuscript has no contact information for the author– just an attached note saying that he will be pitching the novel to the agents at their upcoming Book and Author festival. Lila simply dismisses the manuscript as not in her area, but when she is nearly murdered at the book festival, she’s convinced it must be the mysterious author. Then, she finds the body of another editor nearby. Shortly after, a local author is killed, and the two murders appear to Lila to be connected. Will Lila find the murderer in time to prevent her own death? And could clues to his or her identity be written into the grisly manuscript?

Lila Wilkins is determined that she will have the final word.

Check out this second installment in the Novel Idea Mysteries in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Arlington, Lucy, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Jean Reynolds Page. Safe Within. New York: William Morrow Paperbacks, 2012.

safewithinElaine and Carson Forsyth have been married and living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for nearly thirty years when he is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At first Elaine and Carson carry on with their lives but later Carson decides he wants to spend his remaining weeks in Elaine’s childhood home–a whimsical house her parents built in the trees above a lake just outside of the Triangle. Elaine is devastated at losing her husband, but what’s worse when he passes on she’ll be left with her acerbic mother-in-law. Greta Forsyth does not like her daughter-in-law. Although both her son and his wife have tried to convince her otherwise, Greta knows what the woman who walked in on Elaine and that other boy saw all those years ago. She knows that her supposed grandson, a handsome young man in his late twenties called Mick, is really a cuckoo’s child. Her son might be taken in, but Greta is not that kind of fool.

Elaine doesn’t know how to get through to Greta; at this point in their long, bitter relationship, she’s stopped trying. Mick, her son, knows to leave his grandmother alone, but he can’t be absent for his father’s last few weeks of life. He comes home to Carolina from his shipyard job in Rhode Island, but runs into trouble he doesn’t expect when he stops to catch up with some old acquaintances. His high school sweetheart, a beautiful local girl named Kayla, went away for a time with her mother after she and Mick broke up. When the two returned, they brought Kayla’s new little brother with them. Kyle is six now, and everyone but Mick is sure they know who his parents are in reality. Caught between Greta’s accusation that he’s not his father’s son and Kayla’s family’s anxiety over his attempt to reach out to little Kyle, Mick must decide who he will be for himself. As the family dynamics shift with Carson’s death, Greta and Elaine must also reconsider their assumptions.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Orange, Page, Jean Reynolds, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Elizabeth Flock. What Happened to My Sister. New York: Ballentine Books, 2012.

Carrie Parker, age nine, and her mother Libby are leaving Hendersonville, North Carolina. Before they drive away, Libby makes her daughter promise never to talk about anything that happened there, and to remember that her sister, Emma, was just an imaginary friend she made up. But Carrie knows better– Emma was real, until something bad happened.

After moving down into the foothills, Carrie and her mother eke out a miserable existence at a motel in the fictional Hartsville, where Libby is often too intoxicated or too busy with her boyfriends to even feed her daughter. The little girl lives on paper and stolen food, until entirely by accident, she meets the Chaplin family. Ruth, Honor, and Cricket Chaplin are three generations living under the same roof. Living in a comfortable house filled with memorabilia dedicated to their famous relative, Charlie, the Chaplin women nevertheless have their own struggles. Cricket’s sister, Caroline, passed away only a short while ago from cancer, and it has torn her parents apart. Honor, Cricket’s mother, thinks that she’s hallucinating that day in the Wendy’s when she sees the little girl stealing from the salad bar– she’s the spitting image of her Caroline. When she discover’s Carrie’s name, she knows that she has to keep this unloved, sad little girl in her life. This conviction will change her and her family’s life, and will help Carrie discover what actually happened to the sister she’s sure she didn’t imagine.

A simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting story about family, blood ties, and what’s most important in life, Elizabeth Flock has written a beautiful story that gets at the heart of child abuse. Told from the dual perspectives of Honor Chaplin and Carrie Parker, it is an intricately woven tale that both surprises and satisfies.

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

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Buncombe, Flock, Elizabeth, Henderson, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Suspense/Thriller

Maurice Stanley. Midwinter: A Novel of the Frankie Silver Murder. Wilmington, NC: Whittler’s Bench Press, 2007.

History tells us that Frances “Frankie” Silver of Morganton, North Carolina, murdered her husband Charlie during a fight in late December of 1831. According to Frankie, Charlie Silver had been loading his musket in a jealous rage at the time in order to kill her.  Perhaps it is the whim of fate, and the expediency of axes over that of early 19th century firearms, that Frankie lived and Charlie died. Although the murderess attempted to conceal her actions, it’s said that she regretted his death bitterly. Eventually, however, Charlie’s family found her out, and Frankie was executed by hanging in the summer of 1833.

Maurice Stanley’s account of this infamous tale, long part of North Carolina mountain lore, is part historical fact, part fictional characterization, and part ghost story. He takes the perspective of various persons reputedly involved in the affair, including that of Frankie and Charlie’s families, the ill-fated couple themselves, and local law enforcement. He renders an imaginative retelling of this well-known classic, and provides a comprehensive list of resources for anyone interested in the historical accounts. But one thing will never be settled by reading newspaper stories or first-hand reports: do the vengeful ghosts of Frankie and Charlie Silver still walk the earth to this day?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. For more information on Frankie Silver and her story, come by the North Carolina Collection and discover our historical sources, including the official court record from the Morganton News-Herald.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2007, Burke, Historical, Mountains, Stanley, Maurice, Suspense/Thriller

Marybeth Whalen. The Guest Book. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.

Macy Dillon and her family used to take a vacation to Sunset Beach, North Carolina every year. Her most treasured childhood memories are of walking the beach with her mother, brother, and especially her father. But Darren Dillion passed away when she was just sixteen, and Macy’s life has contained a gaping hole ever since. Macy is barely holding it together, working at the local grocery store, and suffering through her mother’s forced celebration of her father’s birthday each year. The only good thing that has happened since Macy’s father’s death is her now five-year-old daughter, Emma, even though Emma’s father walked out on them both shortly after she was born.

But this year at the birthday celebration they hold annually for her deceased father, Macy’s mom announces that they are once more taking a family vacation to Sunset Beach. Macy begins to hope. As a child, her father encouraged her natural artistic talent by asking her to draw a picture in the guest book at their beach house rental each year. Amazingly, another child, a young boy, would answer Macy’s drawings each year with a drawing of his own. The children traded drawings for ten years without meeting, but in what she knew would be her final drawing, Macy promised to come back and find him. Macy is determined that this trip to Sunset Beach will be the one in which she finds the boy. But when they arrive, no less than three men begin vying for Macy’s attention…and any of the three could be the artist. Will she ever find out his identity? And will her family ever find peace without her father?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Brunswick, Coast, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship, Whalen, Marybeth

William F. Kaiser. Bloodroot. Deep Gap, NC: Bloodroot Books, 2007.

It’s 1860, and Billy Jack Truehill thinks he’s a goner for sure. Bitten by a giant rattlesnake while hunting alone in the North Carolina mountains, the tough woodsman knows he’s likely to perish. But Providence must smile on Billy Jack, for instead of dying in the forest, he stumbles onto the Widow Johnson’s humble homestead.

Elvira May Johnson was gently raised in New York City, where she was married off to the affluent Methodist preacher, Reverend Hiram Johnson. At twenty years her senior, Reverend Johnson was not her ideal match, but Elvira May bowed to the wishes of her father and brothers. But a sudden, unexplained assignment to a parish in western North Carolina meant Elvira May was uprooted from all she knew and loved, and taken out of civilization into the mountain wilds. Yet, the twenty-four-year old Elvira proved stronger than anyone thought, learning herb-lore from local granny-women and how to care for her humble living space. When Hiram died, the self-sufficient Elvira was more than prepared to cope on her own. Or at least she thought she was, until the day Billy Jack falls over in her cornfield.

Elvira heals Billy Jack’s snakebite, and it doesn’t take long for them to begin courting. Unfortunately, the day they marry is just after the formation of the Confederacy, and it doesn’t take long for the simmering mountain communities to boil over. Now Elvira and Billy Jack must fight to defend their country, their neighbors, and their very lives. But can a young woman with strong ideas about abolition and a young man with a stubborn streak a mile wide survive in the wartime mountain wilds for five years? With bandits, soldiers, and feuding neighbors roaming the highlands, it will take a lot more providence to see them through.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2007, Historical, Kaiser, William F., Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places