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October 2018 Reviews

October 2018 Reviews

Books for Children and Young Adults

Bara Seal & Emily too by Tom Beal. Terra Alta, West Virginia: Headline Kids, 2018. 40 pages illustrated by Elea Paybins. Oversized hardback in dust jacket, $19.95.

In this children’s picture book, suitable to read to kids or for early readers, young Emily and her pet seal – yes, pet seal – leave the house in search of some yummy fish on a rainy day without asking anyone’s permission. That’s a good start, but their adventurousness is just beginning and will take them, literally, all over the world! “Along the way, author Thomas Beal treats his readers to a wealth of delicious imagery, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes that invite us to linger and savor the words that carry us from one place to another. This a book to read, reread, and read aloud.” --Colleen Anderson. “Bara Seal and Emily seem an unlikely pair to leave the comfort of home for far-flung travels, but we will see that their hidden talents, compassion and resilience emerge as they help newly discovered friends find sustenance and solace. Along the way they encounter worlds of hidden beauty and song. We can only surmise that some events are imaginary, but the themes of friendship, family strife and resolution, are real enough, and will relate to parents and children alike.” --Jim McJunkin

 

Me and Mary Ann by Carter Taylor Seaton. Huntington, West Virginia: Self-published, 2018. 71 pages, illustrated. Oversized trade paperback, $10.00

This is a delightful autobiographical book for kids of all ages, especially upper elementary girls, about two mischievous young girls and their adventures growing up as best friends and co-conspirators in Huntington, West Virginia. My favorite chapter is the one that tells how they disrupted the surveyor’s strings and stakes at a vacant lot near their homes for several nights, until they stopped a building project. The lot is still vacant more than 60 years later! Carter Seaton is the author of two novels and two important non-fiction books: Hippie Homesteaders: Arts, Crafts, Music, and Living on the Land in West Virginia and The Rebel in the Red Jeep: Ken Hechler’s Life in West Virginia Politics.

 

Quiver: A Novel by Julia Watts. New York: Three Rooms Press, 2018. 289 pages. Trade paperback, $15.95.

This is an important young adult novel. Set in rural East Tennessee, it depicts a friendship between two teens. Libby is from a family that believes in the “quiverfull” lifestyle of evangelical Christians who are in the process of producing a quiver full of children who will be “God’s righteous warriors.” Zo, her neighbor, is from a socialist, feminist, vegetarian, back-to-the-land family. “Julia Watts is a natural-born storyteller, and in her latest novel she has quite a story to tell. In its empathic and even-handed focus on the unlikely friendship between two teens whose families are on opposite sides of the religious/political spectrum, Quiver is a necessary book that’s both of and for these terrible times.” Robin Lippincott. “This is a wonderful story of friendship between two young people who are seeking their place within a world that is constantly changing, sometimes not for the better. For anyone who has felt “different,” Watts’s novel will be ultimately relatable.” - VOYA Magazine. "Quiver is an amazing, heartfelt book with a powerful lesson to share. Nearly all young adults feel judged or excluded at some point in their lives; this story will help anyone, no matter their situation, see that acceptance is possible.” ―Foreword Reviews. “This just may be the perfect book for our times, when acknowledgement of common ground and empathy are sorely needed.” ―New York Journal of Books. Julia Watts is a native of Southeastern Kentucky now living in Knoxville and on the faculty of South College and Murray State University’s low-residency MFA Program. Her thirteen novels for both the youth and trade markets have won multiple Lambda Awards.                                     

Fiction

Set List: A Novel by Raymond L. Atkins. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2018. 320 pages. Hardback in dust jacket, $27.00.

A set list or setlist is the document that lists the songs that a band or musician intends to play during a particular concert. What an appropriate title for a novel which follows the fictional rock and roll band called Skyye and its groupies from 1970 until 2010. It also follows the personal lives of the musicians when they were not performing. The setting goes back and forth from their North Georgia home to their road venues and back again and again. “SET LIST is an honest, well-written novel for anyone who longs for the days of Grand Funk Railroad, Black Sabbath, or the James Gang--a story of life, love, mortality, and music--a true rock and roll dream.” --Michael Buffalo Smith.  “You read Raymond Atkins to laugh, to marvel at description and insight, to see yourself in each of the characters he swears are fictional, and to understand yourself and your fellow man a little better. This time, however, he's taking his readers back, back, back to long summer nights of little sleep with the hum of a box fan wedged in a window while the dim glow of the green light on a Pioneer stereo receiver plays the soundtrack of youth pressed forever on vinyl. That he can take us back there, is but one of his gifts.” --Shari Smith.  Raymond L. Atkins is the author of four previous novels and a book of creative non-fiction. He lives in Rome, Georgia, and teaches at Reinhardt University and Georgia Northwestern Technical College.

 

The Journey of August King by John Ehle. Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Press53, a 2018 reprint of a 1971 release. 218 pages. Trade paperback, $19.95.

This is one of the rare Appalachian novels that has been made into a Hollywood movie – in 1996 by Miramax. It is the second, chronologically, of seven historical novels by John Ehle (1925-2018) that together illuminate the history of Western North Carolina. The Land Breakers starts the series. The Time of Drums is the Civil War novel; followed by The Road, The Winter People, Lion on the Hearth, and finally Last One Home. He also published four other novels and six non-fiction books. John Ehle was born in Asheville, North Carolina, and served in the infantry during World War II. He then earned an undergraduate degree and a Masters from the University of North Carolina and joined their faculty from 1951-1963. He quit his job to join the campaign of Terry Sanford for North Carolina governor and then joined Governor Sanford’s staff. In that capacity he founded the North Carolina School for the Arts and the North Carolina Governor’s School, among the first such programs established that provided a model for similar subsequent efforts in almost every state. The Ford Foundation was so impressed with his work in North Carolina that they hired him to work nation-wide. He remained with them until he was able to devote himself entirely to his writing career. In 1967 he married the famed British actress, Rosemary Harris. They maintained homes in Winston-Salem and Penland, North Carolina, as well as in New York and London. Their daughter, Jennifer, is also an actress. The Journey of August King is both a geographical and a spiritual journey. August King is a farmer in his 40s who is walking through the mountains in 1810, returning from a long trip to market.  He slowly begins to realize that another person is making a parallel journey. She is Analees Williamsburg, a fifteen-year-old escaped slave. Thus begins his internal journal to decide whether to facilitate her escape or to turn her in for a reward.

 

Waters Run Wild: A Novel of the West Virginia Coal Wars by Andrea Fekete. Charleston, West Virginia, Guest Room Press, a 2018 2nd Edition, with new chapters, of a 2010 release. 217 pages. Trade paperback, $16.95.

This novel is set in 1920. The protagonist is 18-year-old Jennie who is growing up in a coal camp with four younger siblings. “Her characters are at once fresh and traditional, the details of setting authentic yet original; and her protagonist is both naive and wise. The plot moves spontaneously and guilelessly like life in West Virginia's hills during the days of coal company stores, scrip and early union activity. Here's one to rival the classics of Appalachian literature.” - Ron Houchin. "Fekete's Waters Run Wild is beautifully written. The prose here sings with a poet's careful touch. Though the topics are as blunt as a baseball bat to the skull, the language never suggests such force. In fact, the narrative's nature, a predominantly woman's tale, seems to welcome Fekete's gentle hand." -Ryan Stone. The author, Andrea Fekete is the grand-daughter of Mexican and Hungarian coal miners. She was raised on Buffalo Creek in Logan County, West Virginia, which was the site, in 1972, of a slag heap dam burst that killed over one hundred people, injured over one thousand more, left over four thousand homeless and destroyed over 600 buildings.

 

Scribe: A Novel by Alyson Hagy. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 2018. 157 pages. Trade paperback, $16.00.

This is a post-apocalyptical novel with a clear Appalachian setting that draws upon traditional folk tales. It takes place after a brutal and devastating Civil War when contagious fevers have decimated the population leaving abandoned farmsteads throughout the isolated mountain valleys and hollows. The female protagonist who remains unnamed has learned how to make paper and ink and trades her skill at letter-writing for firewood, tobacco, and other scarce resources in the region’s barter economy. She allows a migrant group, locally called “The Uninvited,” to camp on her land as tensions increase. “A slim and affecting powerhouse. . . . Hagy is a careful writer; each sentence feels as solid and sturdy as stone. . . . Timely and timeless; a deft novel about the consequences and resilience of storytelling.”―Kirkus Reviews. “Hagy probes the weight of responsibility and the desperation of survival in a deteriorated society in this evocative, opaque tale. . . . The vagueness of setting, supernatural elements, and only partially revealed histories amp up the eeriness of this disquieting novel.”―Publishers Weekly. “Alyson Hagy has written a lyrical, unsettling novel―part ghost story, part mystery, part love story, and thoroughly, jarringly, original.”Elizabeth Crook. The author, Alyson Hagy was raised on a Blue Ridge Mountain farm in Virginia and now lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

 

Finding Joe by Rebecca Hunn. Morgantown, West Virginia: Lynn Lovene Publishing, 2018. 299 pages. Trade paperback, $10.00.

The author, Rebecca Hunn, works as an oil and gas leasing agent in West Virginia, and her novel is informed by her own personal adventures in this capacity. The plot centers around a family that wants to sell their rights to a big company. Two grand-nieces and two grand-nephews have inherited the property, but one of the nephews, Joe Tredloe, is missing. The company agent, Donna Cain, works closely with Joe’s sisters who want to find him, but she is wary of his brother Harold, an ex-marine. 

 

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro. New York: Grove Press, 2018. 224 pages. Hardback with dust jacket, $24.00.

When Jamie Quatro’s first book, a story collection, I Want to Show You More, was published in 2013, it was greeted by an avalanche of honors – including being named a New York Times Notable Book - and effusive praise. Just one example will suffice for this as well. David Means wrote: “A brilliant new voice in American fiction has arrived. Bright, sharp, startling, utterly distinctive, passionate, and secretive, Quatro’s stories are missives from deep within the landscape of American womanhood.”  Of course Quatro was exhorted to bring her talents to bear in a novel. The result is Fire Sermon. And the response has been as striking as that of her story collection: “It would be difficult to overstate the wonder I felt while reading this novel. It’s among the most beautiful books I’ve ever read about longing―for beauty, for sex, for God, for a coherent life.”―Garth Greenwell. Fire Sermon is the story of Maggie, a housewife devoted to her husband, her two kids, and to her Christian faith, until her relationship with James, a poet, begins to catch on fire. “Charged with erotic energy and an almost mystical yearning, Jamie Quatro’s debut novel, Fire Sermon (Grove Atlantic), is a tour de force exploration of lust, marriage, longing, and love. … exploring the tensions that play out when heightened sexual desire, intellectual frisson, and having one’s beliefs tested meet the quotidian routines and rewards of work, family, and faith. … Incorporating a mix of narrative styles from epistolary to confessional to flashback, Fire Sermon is a virtuosic portrait of flesh-and-blood sensuality and the mystery of salvation.” –Lisa Shea. “I loved it, and devoured it in one sitting. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful novel. The simplicity of the story sits in perfect counterpoint to the complex narrative structure. It is simultaneously visceral and cerebral, precise and expansive, domestic and metaphysical, plain-speaking and poetic. Quatro’s voice is singular, heartbreaking and gorgeous. This is a novel to be treasured.”―Monica Ali. “It's rare, to the point of near non-existence, to find a book that has such literary weight and heft, yet reads like a sonnet. I look at it in puzzlement, wondering how Jamie Quatro gave such breadth, depth and intensity in so few words. And it's funny, and real, and painful, so painful. Also a shot of light. An education. A mirror. Terrifying.”―Samantha Harvey. Jamie Quatro is the daughter of a physician father and a classical pianist mother. She graduated from Pepperdine at the age of twenty, earned an M.A. in English from William and Mary, and entered a doctorial program a Princeton only to withdraw when she became pregnant with what became the first of her four children. She and her husband, Scott, moved to the South in 2006 when he accepted a college teaching job in management at Covenant College, a decidedly Christian College on Lookout Mountain above Chattanooga. She currently teaches in the MFA program at Sewanee in the summers.

 

Waiting for Jacob by Cole Smith. Parkersburg, West Virginia: self-published, 2018. 378 pages. Trade paperback, $13.99.

The protagonist of this novel, Rachel Joy, an algebra tutor, devout Christian, and a detective in Parkersburg, West Virginia, is fun to follow. She faces a dilemma. What do you do when somebody does not want to be found, but others want to find her? The author, Cole Smith, lives in Parkersburg and blogs at a website called Cole Smith Writes.

 

The Sound of Holding Your Breath by Natalie Sypolt. Morgantown, West Virginia University Press, 2018. 156 pages with Reading and Discussion Questions. Trade paperback, $18.99.

This is a collection of fourteen short stories. The title story deals with the impact of a rape more than a decade later. All the stories take place in Appalachia and deal with ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges. "Sypolt catches her unassuming characters—friends, neighbors, and families—in the most trying times of their lives, and her vivid descriptions and masterful storytelling make every sentence, setting, and situation come alive." – Booklist. “Sypolt writes with sober love and unselfconscious respect from the insides of people and a place too many writers touch only from the outside. An impressive debut.” - Ann Pancake. Natalie Sypolt teaches at Pierpont Community and Technical College in Fairmont, West Virginia.

 

Pokeweed: An Illustrated Novel by Brian L. Tucker. Castroville, Texas: Black Rose Writing, 2018. 217 pages, with Discussion Questions and illustrations by Katerina Botneroya. Trade paperback, $14.95.

This is a novel of the French-Eversole Feud which began in 1888 in Perry and Leslie Counties in Eastern Kentucky. "Pokeweed is a fascinating account told by Ezekiel ‘Z’ Snopes, who must choose between revenge and forgiveness, in this wonderfully illustrated novel about the French-Eversole feud from the 1880s in Eastern Kentucky." - Sybil Baker. This is the third novel by the author, Brian Tucker, to go with one story collection. He grew up in Monticello, Kentucky, and received an MFA from Eastern Kentucky University. He now lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 

Two Days at the Asylum by Frederick S. Walborn. Terra Alta, West Virginia: Publisher Page/Headline Books, 2018. 288 pages. Trade paperback, $19.95.

The author, Dr. Walborn, a clinical psychologist, worked for a year and a half on the admissions unit of an asylum. After twenty years as a clinical psychologist, he now is a professor at Glenville State College in West Virginia. Inspired by true events, this book could only be published as a novel to protect both the guilty and the innocent. The first of the two days in the title takes place in 1969. It is “Community Day” when the asylum becomes a zoo for locals who pay a fee to observe the bizarre behavior of the residents, including both sexual and religious acting out. The next day provides insights into the aberrant behaviors of the administrators, social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists. "I expected a novel from a published clinical psychologist to be just another insipid psychological thriller. What I read was a humorous, enticing, and amazingly educational period drama that allowed me to understand the state of mental health a half-century ago. I recommend it to anyone interested in psychological disorders, and those who appreciate the unbridled aspects of all interpersonal relationships." --Ed Wood. "Dr. Walborn paints us an all-too accurate picture of the afflicted and their 'care-givers' in a satirical and humorous novel highly accessible to the average reader. He opens to us not only the snarky world of the disillusioned asylum service providers (some are thugs), he shows us empathetically the hearts and struggles of the service receivers who must navigate the world of horror, often alone. I highly recommend this read." --James E. Davison. "This engaging novel is consistently about how mental health care has gone wrong. Surprisingly, the novel suggests how mental health care of the future may go right." --Brod Boswell.

 

Nobody Knows How It Got This Good by Amos Jasper Wright IV. Livingston, Alabama: Livingston Press of the University of West Alabama, 2018. 302 pages. Trade paperback, $16.95

Amos Jasper Wright IV is a young white guy who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and received a Masters in English and creative writing from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, as well as a Masters in urban planning from Tufts. He now lives in New Orleans. This is his first book, a collection of sixteen stories, most set in Birmingham.  The title comes from a comment made by one of his characters on the occasion of the opening of a new big box store near his home. Kirkus Reviews exclaimed, “the thematic consistency is so strong that the reader leaves the book with the wondrous sense of having spent a lifetime among the crooks and malcontents of central Alabama and having come away much wiser for the experience. A finely crafted collection that perfectly evokes a place and culture." James Braziel notes, “If you want to know what the American South has become today and how much the people who live here have given up of their souls and money to fix a past that can’t be fixed, then read Amos Jasper Wright’s debut book, Nobody Knows How It Got This Good. Wright’s characters are truth tellers, and every day they create maps to get them through the city of Birmingham, Alabama, with its dangerous steam plant and high rise banks, luxury car dealerships and dilapidated buildings.”

 

Non-Fiction

Thomas Wolfe Remembered edited by Mark Canada & Nami Montgomery. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2018. 320 pages with an Index, Works Cited, Notes, Chronology, and photos. Hardback in dust jacket, $49.95.

What a good idea!  What a significant contribution to Thomas Wolfe scholarship. Here we have it. What those who actually knew Thomas Wolfe actually said about him. Four chapters – “Childhood,” “College Years,” “Apprenticeship,” and “Professional Writing Career.” "Thomas Wolfe Remembered is lively and informative, providing many insights for understanding Wolfe’s rich and complex art and life. It’s a very welcome and important addition to Wolfe scholarship and will no doubt greatly appeal to both Wolfe scholars and general readers.” —Robert Brinkmeyer. The authors are Mark Canada, a professor of English and academic administrator at Indiana University Kokomo and Nami Montgomery, an ESL specialist at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

 

55 Strong: Inside the West Virginia Teachers’ Strike edited by Elizabeth Catte, Emily Hilliard, and Jessica Salfia. Cleveland, Ohio: Belt Publishing, 2018. 121 pages with lots of photos. Oversized trade paperback. $25.00

There are 55 Counties in West Virginia, and teachers from all of West Virginia’s counties came together in a state-wide teacher’s strike in February of 2018.  They forced their state legislature to reverse course and give them a pay raise and more support for education. Not only that, but they inspired teachers in Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona to strike as well. I am writing this on the last day of October in 2018. On November 6, in less than a week, the day of the mid-term elections, we will see what other ramifications there will be of this dramatic show of courage and solidarity in one of the states with the most backward political establishments. The co-editors of this inspiring book are Jessica Salfia, a West Virginia public school teacher, Emily Hilliard, a West Virginia-based folklorist, and Elizabeth Catte, author of What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia.

 

Listening: The Memoir of an Ordinary Man by Glenn Davis. Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2018. 108 pages with photos. Trade paperback, $15.00.

The author, Glenn Davis, grew up in Martinsville, Virginia, and became a teacher who worked at a wide variety of schools, both secular and Catholic, in Virginia and all over the world. He is an humble, empathetic and deeply religious man whose life has taken some very interesting turns.

 

Wildflowers and Train Whistles: Stores of a Coal Mining Family by Lillian “Sissy Crone” Frazier. Bloomington, Indiana: Author House, 2018. 120 pages with photos. Trade paperback, $13.99.

The author, Lillian Crone Frazier, was known as “Sissy” as a youngster growing up in the 1950s, the 7th child in the family of a coal miner and housewife living in Minden, West Virginia, a coal company town. “Reading Frazer's account of that time period was a mixture of emotion from the simple joys of a childhood spent playing games, to the hidden stress her parents must have been going through in order to make ends meet. Frazer's direct writing style is an asset since the matter-of-fact style allows readers to put themselves in her shoes and relate their own circumstances to the ones she describes. She has a gift for making the everyday compelling. The book is laced with photographs to give the reader an even clearer picture of the world being depicted.” – Pacific Book Review. “This is an important book, as it forms a record of everyday life that would otherwise be lost with the passage of generations. Illustrated with photographs throughout, the account offers stories that have a cumulative emotional power, vividly evoking mid-20th-century life in a remote mining town. Heartfelt, endearing and, most significantly, a vital historical record of a Southern town.” - Kirkus Review. Lillian Crone Frazier currently lives in Oak Hill, West Virginia, only a few miles from Minden where she grew up. She works for a security guard service.

 

After Coal: Stories of Survival in Appalachia and Wales by Tom Hansell. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press: 2018. 237 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes, charts, graphs, and photos. Oversized trade paperback, $27.99.

Because Wales no longer has coal mines, it provides an important precedent for Americans to study as we move into an era of independence from polluting fossil fuels. This book is half of an ambitious project that also includes a film produced by the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University which has sponsored exchanges of coalfield people, including activists, between the two countries for four decades. The book is really an attractive multi-media presentation including charts, maps, graphics and photographs as well as interviews, reproduced articles, commentary and historical background. "Visually appealing . . . . Hansell promises no easy answers, but his optimistic work showcases multiple community-building efforts." Publishers Weekly. “After Coal is a deeply moving account of a long-term exchange between miners in the coalfields of central Appalachia and south Wales where, between 1980 and 2000, both regions lost thousands of mining jobs. Tom Hansell captures their struggles through the voices of miners and their families. He brings the reader face to face with Appalachian and Welsh coal miners whose stories will touch the reader’s heart.” - William Ferris. “A badly needed analysis of the situation where post-coal Appalachia finds itself. Books like Hansell’s are necessary to help the region move forward.”- Denise Giardina.  Tom Hansell is a documentary film-maker who began his career at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and now teaches at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.

 

Global Mountain Regions: Conversations Toward the Future by Ann Kingsolver and Sasikumar Balasundaram. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018. 380 pages with an Index, charts, maps, and photos. Hardback in dust jacket, $90. Trade paperback, $45.

This book consists of 27 chapters dealing with mountain communities around the world. What I like best about the book is that each chapter is preceded by the lyrics of a Si Kahn song! The chapter that deals with Palestine is, arguably, a stretch, and two continents, Australia and Antarctica, are not represented, but the coverage is really pretty complete. Most chapters address issues affecting the mountain regions of more than one country. Contributors include Tom Hansell whose recent book, After Coal, is reviewed here this month; Pat Beaver; Crystal Good, whose contribution is a poem, Shaunna L. Scott; Mary K. Anglin; Tammy Horn Potter; Nathan Hall, and lots of people whose names I cannot pronounce which indicates how much more cosmopolitan this book is than I am. Both co-editors are academic anthropologists, Ann Kingsolver at the University of Kentucky, and Sasikumar Balasundaram at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.

 

West Virginia Outdoor Stories by Earl Lyons, Jr. Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2017. 155 pages with full-page photos. Trade paperback, $12.00.

I debated whether to place this book in my fiction section, but, Mr. Lyons claims that even though these are mostly fishing stories, they really are mostly true! He grew up in McDowell County, West Virginia, and began taking notes as a youngster on his fishing methods and those he learned from others! Even when living out-of-state, Lyons has returned to West Virginia at least annually to enjoy its outdoor recreation opportunities. Of course these are stories about people as well, most notably “The Cheerful Botonist,” Dr. Ellis Meade McNeill, a professor at Concord College who Lyons has explored the woods with, not only as a student, but throughout McNeil’s life as well.

 

Robinson-Tabb House: A Chapter of Berkeley County History by Dave McMillion. Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2018. 16 pages with photos. Staple-bound paperback, $7.00.

Dave McMillion, a reporter for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail, actually purchased and lived in this house for a few years in the early part of this century. The log portion of the house was begun by Alexander Robinson in 1818 and the brick section was begun by George Tabb in the late 1830s or early 1840s. The last family to farm the land surrounding the house was James and Nellie Riner. In 1999 the farm house became part of a residential neighborhood in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

 

Chased by the Wolf: A Life with Lupus and the Kidney Transplant that Saved It by Jill and Fred Sauceman. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2018. 148 pages with a Foreword by Adriana Trigiani, an Index, appendices, illustrations, and photos. Trade paperback, $17.00.

In the summer of 1974, Jill Sauceman, a native of Hiltons, Virginia, went to a small medical clinic in Nickelsville, Virginia, for a physical in preparation for entering the nursing program at East Tennessee State University. The doctor there noticed a problem with her kidney function, did further tests, and diagnosed her with lupus nephritis. For forty years she fought through flare-ups of the disease until she was finally able to receive a kidney transplant. This is not only a story of overcoming physical challenges and the importance of organ donations, it is also a love story. In 1978 she met Fred Sauceman. Against the advice of many, they married, a decision that neither has regretted. “This glorious memoir chronicles Jill's shocking diagnosis of lupus in her youth, and how she copes with an uncertain future. Fred Sauceman, her white knight with a spatula, enters a disco and her life is never the same. The third partner in their vibrant, loving, and complex marriage is Jill's lupus. The coauthors meet the beast head-on, without compromise.” --Adriana Trigiani. Jill Sauceman’s husband and co-author has written and edited seven books on Appalachia, particularly its foodways. He is a native of Greeneville, Tennessee, and a professor at East Tennessee State University.

 

A Centennial Celebration of The Bright Star Restaurant by Niki Sepsas and the Bright Star Family. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2018. 188 pages with color and black-and-white photos. Oversized trade paperback, $24.95

In 1907, Tom Bonduris, a Greek immigrant, established a restaurant in Bessemer, Alabama, and named it The Bright Star. Through four moves in its first ten years, along with the help of other immigrants and natives, it became more and more well-established until it has become a Birmingham area landmark and institution. The story of the restaurant is told here in the context of the city’s history providing a fascinating well-written story that has the academic credibility expected from a university press book.. “Every once in a while—possibly only once in a lifetime—if we are really lucky we will run across a restaurant that is truly special. I’ve had the privilege of eating at five-star restaurants in Europe as well as here in the United States, and without question my favorite restaurant in the world is the Bright Star in Bessemer, Alabama. The restaurant stands on its own, but the story of a young man from Greece who had very little money and could not speak English making his way to Alabama and starting a restaurant that has thrived for more than one hundred years is a heartwarming one . . . you’ll not soon forget.” – Gene Stallings. The author is a world traveler and tour guide as well as a freelance writer. His home is in Birmingham, but he can often be found working as a guide on cruise ships or guiding other kinds of tours all over the world.

 

Beautiful Chaos: Our Story about Foster Care, Adoption, Faith, and Love by Crystal Smith. Bloomington, Indiana: Westbow Press/Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, 2018. 142 pages with kid’s pictures and photos. Trade paperback, $13.95.

The author, Crystal Smith, is a West Virginia native. After her two biological children became teens and she re-married, her family decided to take in foster children. She has been a foster mother to over twenty-five children and adopted five of those. She and her husband, Todd, and their five children now live in Bristol, Tennessee. This book illuminates the bureaucracy, heartbreak and hassles of foster care and adoption as well as the ultimate meaning and beauty involved. It embraces the love and faith that has guided her throughout.
 

Levi, His Hardships, Triumphs, and Impeccable Faith by D. Truman Shrewsbury. Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2017. 96 pages illustrated by the author. Trade paperback, $12.00

Levi Harmon Shrewsbury (1881-1970) was born at Barkers Ridge in Wyoming County, West Virginia. His father died at the age of 37, so he took over the farm at the age of 17.  He and his wife, Bessie, had eleven children. This is the story of his life as told by D. Truman Shrewsbury, one of his grandchildren who was also raised on Barkers Ridge at a time when little had changed in that area from his grandfather’s time.

 

Looking Back at Charleston by M. Lynne Squires. Scott Depot, West Virginia: self-published, 2018. 131 pages with color photos. Oversized trade paperback, $22.00.

Lynn Squires, who lives in Charleston, West Virginia, calls herself “an urban Appalachian author.” This is her fifth book, as usual expanding her writing genres that include a cook book and a book about the craft of writing. Looking Back at Charleston is a compilation of her fascinating magazine columns, “Looking Back,” which explore the history of Charleston places, mostly prominent buildings. It makes a nice gift that will assuage the curiosity of readers and expand their awareness of places they have noticed. Each short essay includes color photographs or color reproductions of old post cards, most showing how the places looked at various times.

 

My Take Off and Landing: A Career Blended with World Travel by Ruth H. Uldrich. Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2018. 124 pages with photos. Trade paperback, $10.00.

Ruth Uldrich grew up in Gassaway, West Virginia, in Braxton County, the daughter of a carpenter and stone-cutter. She went to nursing school and then served in the Air Force for 26 years, retiring to Tampa, Florida, and then back home in Braxton County. This is her autobiography.

 

POETRY

Blood Harmony by Lana Austin. Oak Ridge, Tennessee: The Iris Press, 2018. 67 pages. Trade paperback. $16.00

Iris Press does such a fine job lifting up previously “undiscovered” writers as well as celebrating established icons, like Ron Rash. Their covers belong in an art gallery. This collection is exemplary of the fine job they do. The title of this collection comes from the poet’s experience singing with her brother in foster care in rural Kentucky. Music – of a broad swath of genres -  is what binds all these poems together. “Blood Harmony introduces a lively new voice to Appalachian poetry. Lana K. W. Austin celebrates the bonds of memory and blood in poems of both harmony and drama, remembering the blood spilled in the coalfields, and the struggles of families with loyalty and courage. The poems pay tribute to the place and soul of the region, the music of blending voices, adolescent desire, and the exuberance of motherhood, the enduring legacy of Jean Ritchie and Bill Monroe, and the mountains where the music was born.” --Robert Morgan. “An ecclesiastical thread runs through this fine book, in that everything has its season, and everything--including joy and grief--goes together. Austin's poems achieve through their own high and lonesome registers what we expect from the best blues or hillbilly music: the human experience in this weary world is affirmed, even dignified. I am glad these refreshing, bone- and blood-deep poems are in the world.” --Maurice Manning. “These poems are handmade and heart-carved with a luthier's canny expertise. Anyone wishing to go, as her opening poem invites, "In Search of the Wild Dulcimer" need look no farther than this collection where kindred sounds blend beyond description. In thrall to depths of the spirit, her poems are also sweetly free. Blood Harmony will make you sigh and sob, clap and stomp.”--R. T. Smith. Lana Austin lives in Huntsville, Alabama, where she directs the Opera in the Schools program, teaches English at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and directs traditional operettas and musicals through the School for the Art

 

What Once Burst with Brilliance by Robert Lee Kendrick. Oak Ridge, Tennesse: The Iris Press, 2018. 86 pages. Trade paperback, $16.00

These are persona poems in three sections. In the first section the narrators speak of small-town life. In the second they experience natural surroundings, and in the third the two worlds find a confluence. “Kendrick's poems are at once documentary and unforgettably imagined. Their pervasive narrative drive streams with revelatory blinding diction and ghosts that pass through walls "to slip free from gravity's hold / & rise / as columns of smoke." What a fine book.”--Joseph Bathanti. “Kendrick teaches us that in these moments of restoration and reinvention, in these imaginings of what something is and can be, we find connections. We find ourselves.” --Adam Vines. The poet, Robert Lee Kendrick, is a high school teacher with a PhD in 18th Century British literature who lives in Clemson, South Carolina. This is his first book.

 

Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse by Valerie Nieman. Winston-Salem. North Carolina: Press 53, 2018. 81 pages. Trade paperback, $14.95.

Essentially a biographical novel written as a series of poems, this book tells the story of a mixed-race Appalachian orphan who runs away to join a carnival. She works as a dancer and fortune teller. When she acquires vitiligo, she serves the carnival as a “freak,” thus the book title, Leopard Lady.  “The Leopard Lady, as she says, is ‘half one thing and half another,’ and so is her book: poetry and story, mystery and earth, told in two parts and two voices--but all one remarkable thing you may want to read in one sitting.” --Sarah Lindsay. Valerie Nieman graduated from West Virginia University in journalism and earned an MFA at Queens in Charlotte. She has published widely in the novel and story as well as poetry. She now teaches creative writing at North Carolina A & T University.

 

The Book of Awe by Susan O’Dell Underwood.  Oak Ridge, Tennessee: The Iris Press, 2018. 93 pages. Trade paperback, $16.00

Susan Underwood pays attention to the world, especially the natural world, so closely that it inspires awe in her. Not only that, it also inspires righteous indignation at the environmental devastation that we experience everyday if we observe carefully. Beyond all that, it inspires her to write poems that are accessible in a way that leads us into greater depth and whose lyricism arouses our most penetrating contemplation. “Susan O'Dell Underwood is uniquely aware as a thinker and writer, and that awareness results in startling, vital poetry. . . . Every poem in this collection will shake the reader to wakefulness.--C. Ann Kodra. “The Book of Awe is the book that we need right now. Like the ‘gorgeous faith of roots against the sand's erosion,’ Underwood celebrates God's immanence in the world despite natural disaster and human error. While Underwood's topics--hubris, spite, gratitude, love--are ambitious, she centers her poems in the tangible miracles of canyons, fields, and lightning bugs. In the lovely image of a ‘little doe’ who symbolizes grace, Underwood gives the reader hope that no matter the pain, resurrection remains possible. These luscious, lyrical poems remind us that words keep us alive.”--Anya Krugovoy Silver. “Susan O'Dell Underwood's The Book of Awe is a bracing, brave, bittersweet report of what the poet has heard with her ear ‘pressed to the planet's pulse’ and to ‘the craving soil... rapt with quivering.’ In poems that ponder sequoia trees, oil spills, rag dolls, and jellyfish, Underwood finds the world wonder-filled, instructive, and God-haunted. Underwood shows us that the things of the world--a kettle of water, coveralls, snakeskins, rock formations--the things we observe and listen to and bide with can astonish us, can become ways for us to "know sometime, somewhere the wild inevitable beauty." --William Woolfitt. Susan Underwood directs the creative writing program at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee. Two poetry chapbooks preceded this collection. She is one of a significant cohort of Appalachian writers with a UNC-G MFA. Her doctorate is from Florida State.