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October 2021 Reviews

October 2021 Reviews


Honey Bees ABC’s by Julie Sha Riggs. Meadville, Pennsylvania: Christian Faith Publishing, 2021. 53 pages with full color photos and illustrations on every page. 8” X 10” paperback.

From the Apiary to the Zip in the flight of bees, this charming and beautiful book gives short and fascinating facts about the world of bees from the Hive to Verroa mites. The author is a certified beekeeper who lives in the mountains of Northeast Georgia and is recently retired naturalist who worked at the Tallulah Gorge State Park.



All This Marvelous Potential: Robert Kennedy’s 1968 Tour of Appalachia by Matthew Algeo. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, a 2021 paperback reprint of a 2020 release. 264 pages with an Index, Sources, and photos. Trade paperback.

Matthew Algeo has reported for National Public Radio on four continents. Here he focuses in on Tuesday, February 13th, 1968 and Wednesday, February 14th, 1968, when Robert Kennedy visited the Eastern Kentucky coalfields. Four chapters present those two days along with the preliminaries and the follow-up. Kennedy visited strip mines, one-room schools, and the homes of Eastern Kentucky families. Algeo places this trip in the context of the similarities and the differences between then and now and why it matters. “What makes Algeo’s account stand out is that he focuses less on Kennedy and more on the residents, politicians, and community activists who struggled daily with the onerous burden of severe chronic poverty . . . .  A powerful story, skillfully told.” – Booklist. “Algeo presents a captivating account of Kennedy’s journey.” – Library Journal.

On Dark and Bloody Ground: An Oral History of the West Virginia Mine Wars by Anne T. Lawrence. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2021. 161 pages with a Foreword by Catherine Venable Moore, an Afterword by Cecil E. Roberts, the President of the United Mine Workers, an Index, plus Selected Educational Resources, three maps, and photos. Trade paperback.

The heart of this book is about 40 interviews, each just a few pages, done by the author in 1972 when she was a sophomore at Swarthmore College and was hired by Miners for Democracy to write for their publication, The Miner’s Voice.  These forty interviews were selected from about twice as many that she completed. “The publication of On Dark and Bloody Ground is a tremendous addition to the literature on the West Virginia Mine Wars and is long overdue. It is a pleasure to read, and it captures the voices of the coalfields in a way that is unlike any of the other accounts.”  - Lou Martin. Anne T. Lawrence is now professor emerita of management at San Jose State University.

Rock Climbing in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge: An Oral History of Community, Resources, and Tourism by James N. Maples. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2021. 229 pages with an Index, Bibliography, and Notes.  Trade paperback.

No maps, no photos. This is NOT a guide book. Trust the sub-title. It is a book of oral history of what used to be a corner of Eastern Kentucky with practically no useful resources and then quickly became transformed into a place with overwhelming resources in the form of rocks to climb and landscapes to visit. The news in the local papers ceased to be just a visit from somebody’s aunt and became, too often, a camper falling to his death when he emerged from his tent on a dark night to take a piss. The author, James N. Maples, is a sociology professor at Eastern Kentucky University whose book concludes with his policy recommendations on what locals and visitors have learned and how they can work together for ecotourism and community development with an eye towards preservation of a community’s unique resources. “Well-written, accessible, and succinct. Historians, Kentuckians, scholars, and dirtbags alike will find this volume illuminating” – Kristi McLeod Fondren. “Maples’s historical account of rock climbing in the Red River Gorge brings the people and places to life. . . . Maples’s work will aid in understanding the past and present, and it will inform the future of outdoor recreation in the area.” - Michael J. Bradle. “A climbing history of the Red—a global climbing mecca—is a major contribution. And like the climbers he studies, Maples pushes further, telling a larger story about the transformational power and possibility of climbing in Appalachia and beyond. Climbers, conservationists, public land advocates, and anyone with an interest in this region should read this book to understand how climbing is a complex force to be reckoned with and how climbers can be a force for good.” - Zachary Lesch-Huie.

The Taking of Jemima Boone: Colonial Settlers, Tribal Nations, and the Kidnap that Shaped America by Matthew Pearl. New York: Harper, 2021. 272 pages with an Index and Notes. Hardback in dust jacket.

This book was featured on many lists of outstanding books to be published this fall. On July 14, 1776, Jemima Boone (1762-1834) the daughter of Daniel and Rebecca Bryan Boone, along with two of her girlfriends, Elizabeth and Frances Callaway, were captured at the Kentucky River near their home at Fort Boonesboro by two Cherokees and three Shawnees. Three days later they were rescued from a campsite near the Ohio River by a party led by Daniel Boone that included Jemima’s future husband, Flanders Callaway, the cousin of her companions.  Two captors later died of injuries sustained in the rescue. This incident presents the opening salvo in a series of conflicts between the white settlers and the Shawnees and the Cherokees that this book follows, including a 1775 peace treaty and the unsuccessful siege of Boonesboro in 1778. “A deliciously intricate and utterly absorbing retelling of the Daniel Boone family saga–—and particularly the complex roles played by the Cherokee and Shawnee across Boone's southern Appalachian stamping grounds. The Taking of Jemima Boone adds an intriguing dimension to an issue of keen importance to modern society.” – Simon Winchester.
“Not only did Matthew Pearl’s clear and vivid writing immediately sweep me up in a father’s fear, it pulled me into a larger and even more profound story, one that would change the course of three nations—one young, two ancient, all fighting for survival.” – Candice Millard. This book is the first foray into non-fiction by author Matthew Pearl. His previous works of fiction have been translated into more than 30 languages.



Cannel Coal Oil Days by Theophile Maher. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2021. 162 pages with a 16-page introduction by Edward Watts, the editor as well as a Bibliography, appendices, and a few figures. Trade paperback.

This autobiographical novel was actually written in 1887, discovered in 2018, and now, published for the first time. It takes place from 1859 until 1861 in the part of Western Virginia that became West Virginia two years later. The protagonist of the novel, Mr. Mark, moves from Chicago to take a job in the Elk River Valley producing coal oil for lighting and lubrication – a new industry that sprung up when whale oil supplies diminished. The novel provides important insights into this new industry and into the coming of the Civil War in the area. Mr. Mark works with a Black family to organize a Union militia to aid the secession of West Virginia from Virginia and ends when he surrenders to be imprisoned by Confederate forces to avoid a violent confrontation. Appendices provide insights into what happened after Maher’s novel abruptly ends, unfinished. “Cannel Coal Oil Days represents an artifact of great interest to scholars working in environmental and energy humanities spaces. Particularly notable is the author’s concern with the changing energy landscape in the mid-nineteenth-century US, and the impacts of coal mining and oil distillation processes on worker conditions, public health, and the environment. The book also offers a unique snapshot of the racialized dimensions of extractive industries in antebellum Appalachia. Americanists reading Maher’s novel will undoubtedly place it within a broader corpus of mining literature, energy history, and representations of environmental injustice in Appalachia.” - Matthew S. Henry.

The Heart of Splendid Lake by Amy Clipston. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2021. 238 pages with Discussion Questions. Trade paperback.

Brianna Porter stays at the lakeside Western North Carolina resort when her sisters move to the coasts and helps her parents run it. She is content with her life and her fiancé, Taylor, until everything falls apart. Her father dies, and her mother has a stroke and her sisters and her fiancé are not helpful. Then, the last thing she needs, a man named Scott Gibson appears and is trying to get her to sell the family resort. How will Brianna resolve her wish for dependable romance and her devotion to Splendid Lake? The author, Amy Clilpston, became a prominent author of Christian romances with her Amish books. She works for the City of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Riverbend Gap by Denise Hunter. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 202l. 231 pages with Discussion Questions. Trade paperback.

Hot Springs, North Carolina is the inspiration for Riverbend Gap. This Christian romance centers around Katie Loveland and the problem of which brother she wants – Cooper or Gavin Robinson. “Hunter delivers a touching story of how family dynamics and personal priorities shift when love takes precedence. Hunter's fans will love this.” -- Publishers Weekly. Three of Denise Hunter’s 35 books have become Hallmark Chanel movies and several have won a variety of awards.  She lives in Indiana.



Gateless Menagerie by Larry D. Thacker. Portland, Oregon: Unsolicited Press, 2021. 102 pages. Trade paperback.


The title of this book of poetry refers to the contrast between humans and the animals we keep. We humans are mostly gateless, a privilege that is perilous, but we, like all animals, domestic and wild, certainly qualify as a menagerie. Just because humans are untended does not mean we are not cooped up. These connections and themes come up in poems with titles like, “I’ve been grounding myself lately,” and “I was warned in school against reading ahead.” Larry Thacker is widely published in literary magazines and has previously published two books of stories, three poetry collections, two chapbooks and Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia.