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August 2018 Reviews

August 2018 Reviews

BOOKS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH

Library on Wheels: Mary Lemist Titcomb and America’s First Bookmobile by Sharlee Glenn.  New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2018. 52 pages, replete with photos, Notes, and a Select Bibliography.  An oversized hardback in dust jacket, $18.99.

Sure, this is a kid’s book, but I enjoyed it and learned a lot from it, despite my more than seven decades of living! The illustrations make it suitable for preschoolers and fascinating for adults, and the text is written so that it can be read by bright upper-elementary students but is not too basic for older students. The first American bookmobile was launched in Appalachia – Washington County, Maryland, to be exact, by America’s second county-wide-library system. This is the inspiring story of Mary Lemist Titcomb (1852-1932) who launched that very first bookmobile. Joshua Thomas, the janitor at the main library in Hagerstown, drove the horse-drawn bookmobile on its first trip in April of 1905. In the 1910 census, Thomas listed his occupation as “Book Missionary.” When the horse-drawn bookmobile was destroyed by a train at a railroad crossing, it was replaced in 1912 by a motorized bookmobile, and bookmobiles still serve rural Washington County. The author, Sharlee Glenn, grew up in a rural Utah community served by a bookmobile and still lives in Utah. When she learned that Mary Lemist Titcomb was buried in an unmarked family plot in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts, Glenn helped raise funds to erect a grave marker for her.

 

FICTION

Three Days Missing by Kimberly Belle. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Park Row Books, 336 pages with Questions for Discussion. Trade paperback, $15.99.

An Atlanta second-grader, Ethan, goes on a school camping trip to scenic Lumpkin County in the North Georgia Mountains. He goes missing.  His single mom, Kat Jenkins, rushes to the scene to find him still missing. Does Sammy Huntington, the son of Atlanta’s mayor, and Ethan’s classmate, know anything or have anything to do with Ethan’s disappearance? His mother, Stephanie, arrives, and this novel deals artfully with how these two women from very different backgrounds relate to each other. "[A] gripping novel of suspense...Belle does a masterful job of building tension ... Readers will be glad to get to know these two very different, yet equally strong women."-Publishers Weekly "Kimberly Belle delivers the goods-a rocket-paced story with a heart that will keep you riveted through every hairpin twist and turn. Breathless suspense!" -Lisa Unger. “Belle resists easy conclusions and nearly every relationship-be it spouse, family, friend, or foe-doubles down on its intricacies during the course of the action, making readers acutely aware of the unfathomable space between ourselves and others. Absolutely unputdownable. I couldn't let go of this book until I'd devoured the last page."-Mindy Mejia. "Kimberly Belle's Three Days Missing is her best book yet. And that's saying a lot. This one is vividly written, emotional, and engaging, with real, three-dimensional characters who will always keep you guessing. And the finale...it's a right cross to the reader's jaw I never saw coming. Buckle up and turn the pages as fast as you can. This one's a winner!" -David Bell.  This is Kimberly Belle’s third novel. She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

 

Tailspin by Sandra Brown. New York, New York: Grand Central Publishing/ Hatchett Book Group, 2018. 424 pages. Hardback in dust jacket. $27.00

This book is currently #3 on the New York Times best-seller list in the hardback fiction category, and may well move up soon to become another #1 NYT best-seller as have several of Sandra Brown’s books. Her books have sold over 80 million copies and been translated into 34 languages in her impressive career.  In 2008 the International Thriller Writers Association gave her their highest award – Thriller Master. She has also earned the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. This novel highlights her skill combining romance and danger. Pilot Rye Mallett and Dr. Brynn O’Neal become romantically involved as he accepts a mission in the North Georgia mountains that keeps getting more involved and more dangerous each step of the way. "Tailspin is thriller writing at its very best, a nonstop, topsy-turvy, frantic ride that steers an adrenaline-fueled course from first page to last."―Providence Journal.  “[A] suspenseful romantic thriller . . . Brown’s many fans will be pleased.” – Publishers Weekly. Brown is a Texan.

 

Horse: A Novel by Talley English. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. 314 pages. Hardback in dust jacket. $26.95.

When Robert French abruptly leaves his family, the most substantial being left behind is Ian, a horse. His teenage daughter, Teagan, and Ian relate to each other with a mixture of fear and respect that grows into familiarity. This novel is too deep and too poetic to be considered a YA novel. Rather it is a very mature examination of relationships that encompass both people and animals. The setting is clearly reminiscent of exurban Charlottesville, Virginia, where Talley English was raised and now resides and of Roanoke where she earned her Masters in creative writing at Hollins University. “Written in short, elegant chapters resembling prose poems, Horse bucks traditional narrative form . . . Insightful yet free of sentimentality, English’s book reaches a surprising and resonant conclusion.”The National Book Review. “Talley English magically combines the narrative drive of a novelist with the linguistic sensitivity of a poet and the wisdom of a woman who has lived her life in nature. A book for anyone who loves horses and good novels.” Pinckney Benedict. “Horse is about the beauty of words. About the beauty of relationships. About the beauty of beauty. What the author has captured with this novel is a unique combination of stunning language, heartwarming and heartbreaking relationships, and gorgeous scenery and landscapes. Horse is an astounding debut, a multi-layered novel that clearly marks Talley English as a writer to watch.”Scott Loring Sanders.

 

Miss Julia Raises the Roof by Ann B. Ross. New York, New York: Viking, 2018.  284 pages. Hardback in dust jacket, $27.00

This is the nineteenth, yes, the 19th, Miss Julia novel!  No wonder they are so popular. Their author, Ann B. Ross, is a personable former U.N.C.-A. professor with a PhD from U.N.C. and a Hendersonville resident who knows how to make a book enjoyable.  And her books reinforce good old-fashioned Western North Carolina small-town values and virtues. "Ross has a gift for elevating such everyday matters as marital strife and the hazards of middle age to high comedy, while painting her beautifully drawn characters with wit and sympathy."-Publishers Weekly. "Ann B. Ross develops characters so expertly, through quirks, names, and mannerisms, that they easily feel familiar as the reader is gently immersed into the world Miss Ross has created. . . . A delightful read." —Winston-Salem Journal, "Miss Julia is one of the most delightful characters to come along in years. Ann B. Ross has created what is sure to become a classic Southern comic novel. Hooray for Miss Julia, I could not have liked it more." —Fannie Flagg.

 

High Lonesome Sound by Jaye Wells.  Plano, Texas: self-published, 2018. 450 pages. Trade paperback, $17.00.

This novel was Jaye Wells’ thesis project that earned her a Master of Fine Arts degree from Seton Hall University, yet  it is her 18th book. She places it in her Gothic and Horror book category, and it is set in fictional Moon Hollow in Southwest Virginia.  "A masterful portrayal of flawed humanity struggling to hear the song of the sublime. It's harrowing, haunting, and ultimately triumphant with a deeply satisfying conclusion." -Kevin Hearne. "This is a story that will leave you shivering in the dead of summer." -Cherie Priest. Jaye Wells is a Texan who belongs to the International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, and the Horror Writers Association

 

NON-FICTION

The Cherokee Physician Or Indian Guide to Health as Given by Richard Foreman, a Cherokee Doctor by Richard Foreman and James W. Mahoney. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library, a 2018 reprint of an 1849 release. 350 pages with the original Index and Glossary. Trade paperback, $35.00.

Richard Bark Foreman was the son of a Scottish trader and his Cherokee wife. He was born in 1790 in Bradley County, Tennessee, and died in 1879 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. He served the
Cherokee as a native healer. Even less is known of James W. Mahoney except from a sketch in print of his son who was born in Jefferson County, Tennessee, in 1839, and became a Confederate officer. Dr. Mahoney practiced in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Arkansas where he contacted Richard Bark Foreman and wrote down his practices and published them in a book. Part One consists of short chapters which illuminate how Richard Bark Foreman viewed the various parts of the human anatomy. Part II focuses on ailments with brief passages on how Foreman treated them, and part III covers the herbs he used and their purposes. A copy of the original edition recently sold for $1,000, and the U.N.C. Library chose this as one of their historic titles that warranted a reprint edition.

 

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America  by Beth Macy. New York, New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2018. 376 pages with an Index, Notes, and photos. Hardback in dust jacket, $28.

This Amazon Best Book of August 2018 ranks #7 among hardback non-fiction books in the latest New York Times bestseller lists. It is also a Publishers Weekly Fall 2018 Adult Announcement issue top ten forthcoming book in the Politics and Current Events category. Beth Macy’s work as a newspaper reporter in Roanoke and her first two books, Truevine and Factory Man, set the stage for the dramatic success of this book which tells the story of who really are the conspirators who addicted America and the heroes who have valiantly struggled against it. She covers not only her Virginia metropolitan area but the coalfields to the south and west where the epidemic of gateway prescription drugs was first targeted by Big Pharma. "A harrowing, deeply compassionate dispatch from the heart of a national emergency...a masterwork of narrative journalism, interlacing stories of communities in crisis with dark histories of corporate greed and regulatory indifference."―Jessica Bruder. "An impressive feat of journalism, monumental in scope and urgent in its implications...gritty and heartbreaking.” ―Jennifer Latson. "Ms. Macy focuses on southern and western Virginia, though the lessons of her narrative apply broadly...Macy embedded herself in the lives of four heartsick families whose children's lives were ravaged--and sometimes lost--because of opioid addiction...for those new to the topic there is much to learn."―Dr. Sally Satel. "Heartbreaking, exhaustively researched...a fierce indictment of racism, corporate greed and wily dealers...a terrifying, essential read."―People's Book of the Week.

 

An Appalachian Boy’s Life: A Walk in Three Centuries by Flem R. Messer. Denver, Colorado: Outskirts Press, 2017. 301 pages. Trade paperback, 13.95.

What an amazing life! Flem Messer has often found himself in situations that offered few good options, but he is so likable and so obviously competent, that he has somehow landed, over and over again, on his own two feet. Although he was born in 1935, Flem Messer considers his memoir to take place over three centuries, as noted in his sub-title, because he grew up deep in the mountains of Southern Clay County and Northern Knox County. There, the way he lived was like the way his great-grandparents, who he knew well, lived in the middle of the 19th Century. Flem dropped out of a one-room-school when he was in the fourth grade at the age of 15, and then his life involved working a series of temporary jobs in temporary places, often in the timber industry. After a stint as an industrial worker in Indianapolis, he enrolled in Berea College’s Foundation School, and from there eventually obtained a college degree. Much of this book is devoted to the exciting years he spent working in the War on Poverty, mostly in Clay and Jackson Counties, in the 1960s and 1970s. When the War on Poverty came pretty much to a screeching halt under President Nixon, Flem Messser obtained a job selling life insurance and eventually his company trained him as a broker. In1987 Flem Messer and his family moved to Danville, Kentucky, and his life has remained remarkably stable ever since! “This inspiring memoir by a native son reveals much about the history of Appalachia since World War II. A former community organizer in the War on Poverty, Flem Messer relates the stories of rural poverty, out migration, educational struggle, political intrigue, and resistance that characterized the lives of a generation of mountain young people who came of age during the Great Society era of the 1960s. Well written and very readable, this little volume casts light on the triumphs and the tragedies of the human experience in a much-misunderstood part of America.” – Ronald D. Eller.

 

Reconstruction’s Ragged Edge: The Politics of Postwar Life in the Southern Mountains by Steven E. Nash. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, a 2018 paperback reprint of a 2016 release. 272 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes, tables, and maps. Trade paperback, $39.95.

This book won the 2016 Weatherford Award for non-fiction given by the Appalachian Studies Association and Berea College. It focuses on Western North Carolina, arguably the most pro-Confederate of the mountain sections of Southern states. After chapter one which sets the stage, each of the subsequent chapters covers a few years from 1865 to 1880. “Deeply researched and engagingly written, Reconstruction's Ragged Edge provides new insight into a complex and tumultuous past and can be warmly welcomed as further evidence of the upland region's escape from the margins of southern historiography.” --Journal of American History. “This deeply researched study challenges our traditional understanding of Reconstruction. Steven E. Nash demonstrates that a biracial, class-based political alliance was possible in the Appalachian highlands and that the elite could only return to power through economic coercion and violence. An insightful and impressive work.” --Gordon McKinney. “In his compelling book, Steven E. Nash explores the rich complexity of western North Carolina's Reconstruction politics, offering new insights and evidence while challenging--and correcting--previous historical misconceptions about the unfolding of Reconstruction in the mountain South.” --Aaron Astor.  Steven E. Nash teaches history at East Tennessee State University.

 

Charlottesville 2017: The Legacy of Race and Inequity edited by Louis P. Nelson and Claudrena N. Harold. Charlottesville: The University of Virginia Press, 2018. 225 pages with an Index, photos, and a Foreword by Grace Elizabeth Hale.  Hardback in dust jacket, $39.50. Trade paperback, $19.95.

This book begins with a chronology that starts with the year 1607 and ends with more than a page of entries for 2017.  What ensues are fourteen essays by fifteen University of Virginia professors brought together by two distinguished U. Va. history professor editors, one African-American, Dr. Claudrena N. Harold, and the other Caucasian, Dr. Louis P. Nelson. The essays provide the historical context for race relations at U.Va. that began with the slave labor that built the University and continued with the rarely challenged perpetuation of “Lost Cause” teaching and legitimation of “massive resistance” to integration. This led up to Charlottesville as the chosen site for the white supremacist demonstrations of August 11th and 12th 2017 that killed Heather Heyer. “This is a hallmark of thoughtful, responsible intellectual leadership. As a concerned American, a proud UVA alumna, and a scholar of race and politics, I recommend this book to anyone who seeks to broaden their perspective on the overlapping issues of white supremacy, free speech, public policy and the role of the university in promoting equality.” – Andra Gillespie. “This book delivers engaging, wide-ranging responses to the dramatic days of August 11 and 12 in Charlottesville. It will be a genuinely important contribution to both the specifics of those incidents and the histories behind them and has much to offer readers trying to make sense of those bewildering events.” - Nicole Hemmer.

 

Dear Courier: The Civil War Correspondence of Editor Melvin Dwinell edited by Ford Risley. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2018. 338 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes, photos and other illustrations, and a Foreword by Michael P. Gray.  Hardback with pictorial cover, $39.95.

The Courier in the title of this book is the name of the Rome, Georgia, newspaper that Vermont native, Melvin Dwinell (1825-1887) purchased in 1853, after moving south to teach school two years earlier. In April of 1861 Dwinell began serving in the Confederate Army only to return to Rome in October 1863 after being wounded in Gettysburg, whereupon he was selected to represent Rome in Georgia’s Confederate legislature until the war ended in 1864. This book consists of Dwinell’s dispatches from the war zone to his paper back in Georgia throughout his term of army service with the 8th Georgia in General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.  Editor Ford Risley adds very useful chapter introductions, annotations, and an Epilogue that together provide important context to the dispatches. “Dwinnell’s extensive, well-written, and detailed letters are some of the best I’ve seen from a soldier correspondent. This volume will have wide appeal to readers interested in the campaigns of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.”—Keith S. Bohannon. This is Ford Risley’s third book about journalism surrounding the Civil War. He teaches communications at Pennsylvania State University.

 

Underwater Ghost Towns of North Georgia by Lisa M. Russell. Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2018. 207 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes and many photographs. Trade paperback, $23.99.

None of North Georgia’s lakes are natural. This book is divided into three sections covering the six reservoirs created by the Army Corps of Engineers, the seven created by Georgia Power, and the three created by the Tennessee Valley Authority.  The treatments of each of the reservoirs delve into a variety of topics, including local opposition to the dams, native sites inundated, the process of re-burying former residents, and what was revealed under the lakes by rare extreme droughts. The author, Lisa M. Russell, is a member of the Society for Georgia Archeology and various historical societies. She teaches at Georgia Northwestern and Kennesaw State.

 

Never Justice, Never Peace: Mother Jones and the Miner Rebellion at Paint and Cabin Creeks by Lon Kelly Savage and Ginny Savage Ayers. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2018. 343 pages with an Index, Notes, and an Introduction by Lou Martin. Trade paperback, $27.99.

In 1990 the University of Pittsburgh Press, published Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War of 1920-21 by Lon Kelly Savage (1928-2004), an administrator at Virginia Tech. It was considered the definitive treatment of this struggle. Savage continued his research but died before he could finish another book. His wife, Ginny Moomaw Savage, kept track of his work and made it available to Savage’s daughter, Ginny Savage Ayers, who delved even deeper with the help of many people including her cousin’s husband, Gordon Simmons, a West Virginia labor organizer and bookseller. The focus of this book is a little-known struggle that occurred in1912 and 1913, eight years earlier than the strike covered in Thunder in the Mountains. And this new book highlights the contribution of the great labor organizer Mother Jones (1837-1930). “[The late] Lon Savage and Ginny Savage Ayers have written an account of one of the seminal confrontations in the history of the American labor movement that is both exhaustively researched and a real page-turner. Especially compelling is their insight into Mother Jones, that human detonator in constant search of dynamite.” - John Sayles. Ginny Savage Ayers is a scientist and a teacher who lives in Maryville, Tennessee.

 

Blood Moon: An American Epic of War and Splendor in the Cherokee Nation by John Sedgwick. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018. 487 pages with four maps, an Index, Notes, and Selected Bibliography. Hardback in dust jacket, $30.00.

For generations, Americans have been amazed and impressed with how quickly and thoroughly many Cherokee people assimilated into the American mainstream. That John Ridge, of the Wild Potato Clan in North Georgia, for example, not only graduated at the top of his class at the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut, in 1824, but married the headmaster’s daughter, is emblematic. The outrage of the locals, over what they viewed as miscegenation, resulted in the closing of the school. Recent non-fiction and fiction books by Dr. Tiya Miles of Harvard have brought renewed attention to the Cherokee plantations that bought and worked African-American slaves. Cherokee scholars and readers have been fascinated by the rivalry between the two most powerful Cherokee leaders during the period leading up to the Trail of Tears which President Andrew Jackson implemented in 1938 despite the U.S. Supreme Court prohibiting it. The Ridge family largely cooperated with the move to Oklahoma while John Ross’s family opposed the Cherokee Removal until it became inevitable. Recriminations, even murders, continued between the two families in Oklahoma after the removal and into the Civil War as the Ross faction favored the Union and the Ridge faction supported the Confederates.  It has seemed at times that Cherokee scholars have even been divided, as well, between sympathizers of the Ridge family and the Ross family.  For decades, the scholarly book, Cherokee Renascence in the New Republic by Dr. William G. McLoughlin (1922-1992) of Brown University, published in 1986 by Princeton University Press was widely considered the definitive work on the rivalry. In 1988, Doubleday published Trail of Tears by John Ehle (1925-1918), primarily a fiction writer. It became a popular rendering of the same subject. This book, Blood Moon, falsely advertised as “an astonishing untold story,” arguably over-emphasizes the Ross/Ridge rivalry, even appearing to blame their rivalry, rather than the Georgia Gold Rush or President Jackson, for the Trial of Tears. Yet it must be honored as the most complete rendering of the Ross/Ridge rivalry in print as well as a dramatic and very readable telling of an important part of Appalachian, indeed American, history. “This is a wild ride of a book—fascinating, chilling, and enlightening—that explains the removal of the Cherokee as one of the central dramas of our country. The story of the Trail of Tears, and of its aftermath in Arkansas and Oklahoma, has never been told with more passion or finesse.” – Ian Frazier. “John Sedgwick’s absorbing and ultimately damning story of the destruction of the Cherokee Nation—so that white settlers could pour in and take over their rich lands—finally unearths the ugly but quintessentially American truth about our young nation’s path to expansionism.” – Rinker Buck. The author, John Sedgwick, has written thirteen books and is a frequent contributor to magazines including GQ, Vanity Fair, and the Atlantic. He lives in Brooklyn.

 

Moonshiners and Prohibitionists: The Battle over Alcohol in Southern Appalachia by Bruce E. Stewart. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, a 2018 paperback reprint of a 2011 release. 325 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes, tables, and photos. Trade paperback, $30.00.

Sixty-one pages of Notes and a thirty-page bibliography should be enough to convince anyone that this topic is worthy of scholarly examination.  This book examines Western North Carolina in greatest detail to provide a wide perspective on who opposed alcohol from 1790 to 1908, but also who produced it during what the author calls the Golden Age of Moonshining from 1861 to 1876. Importantly, the author, Bruce E. Stewart, also delves into how each group was viewed and their own image of themselves. “In this masterly study, Bruce E. Stewart explains a facet of the antiliquor crusade that scholars have ignored, namely, the changing perception people had of alcohol distillers from manufactures of a legitimate product to impediments to economic and social progress” – Journal of American History. "Though many historians have emphasized the role that outsiders played in developing popular Appalachian stereotypes, Stewart reveals that early anti-liquor crusaders in the region's towns contributed their share as well."―West Virginia History. "Stewart tracks important shifts in popular sentiment, politics, and laws about making and drinking alcohol from the early 1800s to the early 1900s."―Now and Then. This is the second book about moonshine by Bruce E. Stewart, a professor of history at Appalachian State University. 

 

POETRY

The Letting Go by Bill King. Georgetown, Kentucky: Finishing Line Press, 2018. 36 pages.  Hardback in dust jacket, $24.99. Trade paperback, $14.99.

Bill King teaches English at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia.  His doctorate is from the University of Georgia. After publishing many individual poems, Bill King has created his first collection. It is attractively packaged with a gorgeous cover photo of art work by Lisbet Okun. These important and compelling poems never stray far from the phenomena of the natural world while connecting nature’s ways to hospitalization, to teaching, to family, and beyond. West Virginia’s poet laureate, Marc Harshman, avers, “In this book I am continually struck by King's remarkable attention to detail: ‘the barbed wire / that stitched the hem / of old man Warner's field...’ or a robin that ‘runs upright like a butler, / then bends, as if bowing...’ Such wonderful imagery is harnessed not only to reveal the natural world, however, but the ins and outs of raising children, the challenges of illness, and what it means to bear witness to tragedy. There are, for instance, powerful poems here describing the horrific devastation wrought by mountain-top removal mining, poems whose testimony is deeply moving. These marvelous poems charged with closely-observed imagery and fueled by such a care-filled spirit should gain for Bill King's poetry a deservingly wide and lasting readership.” And the lady who may well be considered the “Dean” of West Virginia poetry, Maggie Anderson, adds, “Bill King's poems are so precisely enacted that to read them is to feel our thighs pumping bike petals, to surge with the jonquils breaking spring soil. He writes with the deep intelligence that knits the natural world to metaphor and gives us a usable model for how to love this mortal place even as we know we are leaving it. I admire these poems very much. They are healing; they ‘carry the wounded skyward.’”