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December 2022 Reviews

December 2022 Reviews


Dazzlin’ Dolly: The Songwriting, Hit-Singing, Guitar-Picking Dolly Parton by Suzanne Slade. New York: Calkins Creek/Astria Books for Young Readers, 2022. 40 pages, illustrated in full color by Edwin Fotheringham with a Timeline and Selected Bibliography. 9.25”X 11.5” hardback in dust jacket.

This picture book begins with the humble birth of Dolly Parton in 1946 and ends when she moved to Nashville to pursue a music career right after graduating from Sevier County [Tennessee] High School. "Suzanne Slade weaves an engaging account of Dolly Parton’s music-filled childhood in the Tennessee mountains, her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry as a thirteen-year-old, and her move to Nashville after high school. Beautifully illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, this charming book will inspire young readers to nurture and follow their own dreams, just as Dolly did." —Lydia Hamessley. “In this upbeat new picture book, bestselling author Suzanne Slade tells young readers the inspiring story of how Dolly Parton's creativity and determination helped her become one of America's most beloved musicians, songwriters, and humanitarians. Highly recommended for ages 5 to 9.” —A Mighty Girl. "A title brimming with love for a favorite country music star. Slade’s text includes quotes from Parton and adopts a down-home voice for the narration as she returns to Dolly’s Tennessee roots to tell her rags-to-riches coming-of-age story....Fotheringham incorporates symbols and motifs...that are important to Parton’s career or figure prominently in her lyrics, which will delight those familiar with her catalog. A new generation will understand why we will always love this iconic singer/songwriter." —Kirkus Reviews. The illustrator, Edwin Fotheringham grew up in Australia and attended the University of Washington School of Art in Seattle where he still lives. The author, Suzanne Slade, initially received 80 rejections of her first books over an eight-year period, but has now published over 150 titles. Trained as a mechanical engineer, she lives in Libertyville, Illinois.



Making Our Future: Visionary Folklore & Everyday Culture in Appalachia by Emily Hilliard. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2022.  277 pages with Notes, Bibliography, Index, and illustrations, including some in full color. Trade paperback.

A former West Virginia State Folklorist and the founding director of the West Virginia Folklife Program, the author, Emily Hilliard, makes an incontrovertible case in this book for viewing folklore as a dynamic force not just of the past, but of the present and the future. “A benchmark in public folklore, Hilliard’s ability to weave together many voices has given us a work that expands the horizons of critical heritage work to encompass hot dog condiments, wrestling matches, and teachers’ strikes, calling attention to community life itself as the object of cultural stewardship.” – Mary Hufford. “West Virginia has long deserved a book like Hillaird’s delightfully written guide, which showcases the breadth and diversity of its cultural practices and centers the imaginations of those who produced them. With deep commitment to both place and field, Making Our Future is sure to be a lasting model of public scholarship at its most inventive” Elizabeth Catte.  “Innovative and inspiring Making Our Future is a significant contribution to Appalachian studies.  Hilliard combines first-rate research with great storytelling to show us how West Virginia cultural practices we often take for granted are already incubating strategies for more socially useful futures.” - Ann Pancake.



A History of Saints by Julyan Davis.  Lexington, Kentucky: Shadeland Modern Press, 2021. 307 pages. Trade paperback.

The title page gives this description of the book, “A novel of identity and the dangers of indecision (or haste) during an economic downturn including dog handling, courtly love, gardening and cooking, sexual fluidity, belly dancing, poetry, loss and addiction.” The recession referred to is the one of 2008. As a result of it, Frank Reed, who owns Carolina Court, a Victorian House in Asheville, North Carolina, decides to rent out its rooms. “A leisurely comic, engaging tale about a boardinghouse’s strange denizens.” - Kirkus Reviews. “Anyone—especially Asheville natives, newcomers, and visitors—will greatly enjoy A History of Saints, a gentle-spirited satire of the kinds of people who land in that Appalachian sanctuary, ‘a no-kill shelter for the artists, the misfits, and the weird-do-well.’ Julyan Davis paints a vivid and affectionate portrait of the characters sharing a huge old ramshackle house, of their neighborhood and the slightly nutty city, and of the surrounding mountains, not just during the Great Recession of 2008, when the book is set, but in the years before and since. His first novel is a delight.” - Michael McFee. The author, Julyan Davis, was born in England but has lived in Asheville for more than thirty years. This is his first novel after a career as a painter, specializing in painting buildings.

Lambs of Men by Charles Dodd White. Charleston, West Virginia: Shotgun Honey Books, a 2022 paperback edition of a 2010 release. 226 pages. Trade paperback.

In this novel, Hiram Tobit returns to Appalachia after serving in World War I and works as a Marine Corps recruiter. Saddened by changes to his community, he is refreshed to find a young single mother and her daughter who cling to old-fashioned values. After a brutal murder, Hiram joins his estranged father, Sloane, whose drunken past Hiram had blamed for the deaths of his brother and mother, in an attempt to capture the culprit. “Charles Dodd White has written this rich novel of the mountains as though he’s been saving every word of it for a lifetime. A book full of beauty and blood and bone, a story that carries the reader through time, through lives, through dirt and fire.”—Crystal Wilkinson. “An elegant structure for a grim psalm.”—Rob Neufeld. The author, Charles Dodd White, is the award-winning author of three previous novels, a story collection and an essay collection. He teaches English at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville.

The Lone Wolf Society by Joshua Kidd.  Davis, California: self-published, 2022. 423 pages. Trade paperback.

In this novel, mostly set in Madison County, Kentucky, where the author grew up, the protagonist is Fred Rogers, a physically handicapped and mentally disturbed law student at the University of Kentucky. He forms the Lone Wolfe Society, of the book’s title, with two fellow law students who all swear to assassinate a member of society’s “elite” before they die. What could go wrong?

The Santa Run by Beth Pugh. Birmingham, Alabama: Iron Stream Fiction, 2022. 251 pages. Trade paperback.

This romance novel is based on a long-standing and important tradition in our Appalachian Mountains. For more than 75 years, The Santa Train has made fourteen stops on its route from Pikeville, Kentucky, to Kingsport, Tennessee, to celebrate Christmas. At each stop, toys are passed out free to the children of the community. In this novel, Eliza Lee Elliott, who is grieving the death of her grandfather, continues to work on The Santa Run. Meanwhile, Bennett Olsen is assigned to leave the big city to supervise the acquisition of the Appalachian Express which makes the Santa Run each year. “Fans of Hallmark Christmas movies will enjoy this sweet holiday tale.”  - Publishers Weekly. “A warm delight full of laughter and heartfelt romance that will gift wrap readers in the holiday spirit.” – Jessica R. Patch. “Heartwarming, wholesome, and perfect for Hallmark fans. The Santa Run is a poignant, engaging love story. A joyful gift to romance readers everywhere.” – Tracy Gardner. The author, Beth Pugh, was born and raised in Eastern Kentucky.

Shadows Hold Their Breath by Sherry Robinson. Lexington, Kentucky: Shadeland Modern Press, 2022. 272 pages. Trade paperback.

Influenced by the feminist and anti-Vietnam War movements of the time, in October of 1979, Kat Hunter leaves her husband and her children in his care and boards a bus just to get away. She ends up in the artist community at Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and continues her self-discovery while guarding her huge secret. “An impressive and thoughtful exploration of the mistakes good people make.” - Kirkus Reviews (starred review and named by them one of the Best Indie Books for August). “Shadows Hold Their Breath explores one woman’s decision . . . rather than crumble under the weight of patriarchal roles. Kat is also burdened by grief and an unspoken love that perhaps even in her nascent self-awareness is still taboo. The novel offers no easy answers, no pure absolution, just Kat’s honest quest to accept – and live – her truth” – Marie Manilla. “Shadows Hold Their Breath is a complicated story about motherhood, grief, and self-discovery. Kat is a troubled, empathetic character searching for independence and understanding. Writing in spare, descriptive prose, Robinson asks difficult and important questions about responsibility and independence without offering facile answers.” – Carter Sickels. “Set against the backdrop of social unrest and shifting patriarchy, this novel of identity will leave you rooting for a character whose choices could easily be condemned. Robinson’s novel is a beautiful exercise in mercy.” – Julie Hensley. After working as an English Professor and directing the Writing Center, the author, Sherry Robinson, retired from Eastern Kentucky University as the Vice Provost. This is her third novel.

Traces by Patricia L. Hudson. Lexington: Fireside Industries/University Press of Kentucky, 2022. 288 pages. Hardback in dust jacket.

 In an Author’s Note at the beginning of this novel, Patricia Hudson writes, “Rebecca, Susannah, and Jemima Boone are among those women whose words have been lost. There’s only a trace [my italics] of them in the tales told about the celebrated explorer, Daniel Boone.” Rebecca was his wife, and Susannah and Rebecca were his two oldest daughters. For twenty-five years, Patricia Hudson, a free-lance journalist and author of non-fiction books, delved deeply into the scant information available about the women of the Boone party, including enslaved women, as well as the women of the Cherokees and the Shawnees who interacted with them directly and indirectly. She talked with historians, biographers, re-enactors, contemporary Cherokees and Shawnees, and retraced the steps of these three women in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Missouri. That is amazing, but what is equally impressive is Patricia Hudson’s command of the language of fiction and her extraordinary ability to bring her characters and setting to life. The combination of her calling to include the excluded, her research diligence and acumen, and her adroit stylistic artistry make this first novel exemplary and compelling. "In Traces Patricia Hudson rescues Rebecca Boone and her daughters from the shadow of the celebrated Daniel. This vivid narrative brings the Boone women delightfully alive. Independent, resourceful, they provide a window on a significant era of our history. The novel dramatizes conflicts and tragedies, as well as desire, loyalty, and abiding love. You will not forget this story of a significant family on the frontier of the young Republic."―Robert Morgan, author of Boone: A Biography. "Patricia Hudson's lyrical yet riveting debut novel Traces is an exceptional work of historical fiction, an intimate portrait of the forgotten women in Daniel Boone's life, set against the vast backdrop of the American frontier. I couldn't stop turning pages, spellbound and enlightened both at once. I know I'll be thinking about these faithfully-rendered characters and their inspiring life stories for a long time to come."―Amy Greene. "Toward the end of Patricia Hudson's Traces, Daniel Boone reads John Filson's The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boone aloud to his family. His wife Rebecca has already heard it, laughing at some of its myth-making, while noting that Filson mentions neither her nor any of her ten children by name. Never mind that she had sheltered and fed him during the weeks he lived in her house to interview Daniel. Never mind that they had 'washed [his] clothes and grained his horse and emptied his chamber pot.' Filson's Boone says of blazing the trail to Kentucky, 'Soon I began this work, having collected a number of enterprising men, well armed.' 'Not just men,' Susannah, their eldest daughter says. 'Dolly and I were on that journey,' Susannah as camp cook and Dolly as the enslaved servant of Colonel Calloway. 'We were there,' Susannah [says], 'but no one will remember us.' In your hands you hold that remembering."―George Ella Lyon. The author, Patricia L. Hudson, is a free-lance journalist and author and co-author of non-fiction books about Appalachia. She grew up in Tennessee’s Sequatchie Valley and has made Knoxville her home for decades.