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April 2017 - Reviews

April 2017 - Reviews

NON-FICTION

A History of Transportation in Western North Carolina: Trails, Roads, Rails & Air by Terry Ruscin. Charleston, South Carolina: History Press, 2016. 271 pages with notes, bibliography, index, many photos, and a foreword by Robert Morgan. Trade paperback, $21.99.

Robert Morgan concludes his foreword by writing; “[Ruscin’s] deeply researched, vivid account brings this history alive as no one else has. From Indian trails to stagecoach, steamboat, railroad and jet airplanes, this is an account of the Southern Appalachian region as only he can tell it.” Stan Shelley writes, “Too many local histories are really folklore put into print. Not this one. Here we have tediously researched, accurate history recorded with pleasing prose and a sense of story.” Ruscin retired from his California advertising firm in 2004 to live in Henderson County, North Carolina. Since then he has written several books on local history.

My Mother’s Pickled Beets and Other Inspirational Lessons from a West Virginia Farm by Lois Cokeley. Seattle: CreateSpace, 2016. 106 un-numbered pages. Trade paperback, $5.99.

The author grew up in Ritchie County, West Virginia. When she recently decided to commit her life to Christ, she began to think about how the values she was raised with are consistent with her Christian beliefs. This book presents eight lessons she learned as a child that resonate with her current religious commitment.

Panhandle Portraits: A Glimpse at the Diverse Residents of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, Volume One by Katherine Cobb. Seattle, CreateSpace, 2016. 88 pages with an index and color photographs. Oversized paperback, $30.00.

Almost all of this book consists of a full-page photo of a person, a couple, or a group on one page with a narrative about that person, couple, or group on the facing page. No politicians or plutocrats are represented, just ordinary folks, but each has a “claim to fame” ranging from athletic prowess to public service.

Panhandle Portraits: A Glimpse at the Diverse Residents of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, Volume Two by Katherine Cobb. Seattle, CreateSpace, 2016. 88 pages with an index and color photographs. Oversized paperback, $30.00.

This book completely complements Volume One introducing the reader to over one hundred more residents of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

 

POETRY

Planet of the Best Love Songs by Ron Houchin. Chester Springs, Pennsylvania: Dufour Editions, 2017; published in Ireland by Salmon Poetry. 84 pages. Trade paperback, $19.00.

Ron Houchin has lived almost all his life in the Huntington tri-state area. He taught high school English for thirty years on the Ohio side of the river where he now lives. He is the author of a book of stories and eight poetry books. Yes, this book is mostly about our planet, primarily parts untouched by humans, and about love, primarily not romantic love. And, for those who envision “the best” in the ordinary, it captures that as well.

 

NOVEL

Prayers the Devil Answers by Sharyn McCrumb. New York: Atria/Simon and Schuster, a 2017 paperback reprint of a 2016 release. 341 pages. Trade paperback, $16.00.            

Sharyn McCrumb, an ever-popular fictional chronicler of dramatic and significant historical events in Appalachia, was inspired to write this novel by an interesting historical fact. The last public hanging in America was presided over by a female Sheriff in 1936 in Owensboro, Kentucky. Not surprisingly McCrumb sets the novel inspired by this fact in the Roanoke, Virginia, area where she has lived for decades. “Prayers the Devil Answers is a rich, astonishing, marvelous book. With a superb eye for detail, Sharyn McCrumb masterfully captures the essence of Depression-era Appalachia, its rough beauty, its folklore, and most of all, its people. Suspenseful and gritty, this compelling tale of a determined young widow confronting heartbreak and impossible choices will resonate long after the final page.” – Jennifer Chiaverini.