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Reviews: November 2016

Reviews: November 2016


Bittersweet with Pearls to Ponder by Oleta P. Hinzman. Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2015. 188 pages. Trade paperback, $14

This book begins with the author’s elegies for her husband, “a country preacher,” and one of her sons who died young.  Her “Pearls to Ponder “ are mostly in verse and are full of Bible quotes, manifestations of her deep Protestant faith. 


Everyday Truth of a Rainbow Woman by Janet L. Furst.  Bloomington, Indiana: Balboa Press, a division of Hay House, 2016. 291 pages. Trade paperback. $19

This is an innovative novel told in the form of e-mails written by a retired West Virginia school psychologist to her college-aged eldest daughter.  The “rainbow” in the title refers to the protagonist’s imagined earlier lives lived in three races – Native American, African American, and Asian American.


Learning to Share  by E. T. Jamesyn.  Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2015. 104 unnumbered pages. 5” X 7” trade paperback, $1.

T. Jamesyn  is the pen-name of Tyler Elliott of Thomas, West Virginia.  He used a gofundme site to raise the money to get this book of his poetry published.


Monsters in Appalachia: Stories  by Sheryl Monks, Morgantown:  Vandalia Press of West Virginia University Press, 2016. 168 pages. Trade paperback, 17.00.

This short story collection has received a fabulous welcome nation-wide including a starred review from Kirkus which bragged, “A memorable debut: each of these stories is as original and multidimensional as the characters who inhabit them.”  Publishers Weekly also gave it a starred review, and a box, and exclaimed,  “These stories sparkle with dark, extreme humor.”  Ron Rash called it “wildly outrageous at times,” but, he continued,  “there is empathy in these stories as well.  Humor and sadness achieve a delicate balance.”


Mountain Mysts: Myths & Fantasies of the Appalachians edited by P. Ray Lewis and Danny Kuhn.  Terra Alta, West Virginia: Publisher Page, an imprint of Headline Books, 2016. 224 pages.  Trade paperback: $20

This is a short story collection with contributions from sixteen writers.  Their stories come from the traditions of tall tales and supernatural occurrences.  This book was awarded an Honorable Mention at the London Book Festival. Editors Kuhn and Lewis have worked as social workers and high school teachers.


Poems from the Heart: A Gift from Above by Robert Carmody. Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2015. 64 unnumbered pages.  Trade paperback, $20

The subtitle, “A Gift from Above” illuminates the deep religious faith that forms the basis for these poems from a Morgantown, West Virginia, writer.


The Sunken Fang Society: Momentous Moments - Stories by Lud Gutmann.  Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2014. 171 pages.  Trade paperback, $22

Lud Gutmann is Professor Emeritus in Neurology at West Virginia University. This book has both a fiction section, comprised of six stories and a nonfiction section that includes thirteen short vignettes from his experience.




All Mountaineers are Libertarians by David Moran.  Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2016. 134 pages.  Trade paperback, $12

 David Moran was the Libertarian Party candidate for Governor of West Virginia in the 2016 elections.  He received 15,144 votes or 5.87% of the total votes cast.  That was more than the Constitution Party candidate but less than half of the votes secured by Charlotte Jean Pritt, the candidate of the Mountain Party, an affiliate of the Green Party nationally. Overall 703,832 votes were cast.  The contest was won by Jim Justice, a coal operator who owns the Greenbrier Resort and ran as a Democrat. This book is Moran’s argument for following the libertarian line in hopes that the reader will vote for him.


The Antebellum Kanawha Salt Business and Western Markets by John E. Stealey III. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2016. 261 pages with an index, notes, works cited, charts, tables, and illustrations. Trade paperback, $25

When Booker T. Washington’s parents were freed by Union troops from the farm in Franklin County, Virginia, where they labored as slaves, they moved to the West Virginia salt works just south of Charleston.  He was nine-years-old and began immediately to work in the salt industry and continued working there until he left to attend Hampton Institute at the age of sixteen. This book tells the story of the Kanawha Valley salt works before Booker T. Washington arrived in 1865. During this time, it was the leading producer of salt for the entire nation. This thorough and scholarly book considers the labor of enslaved blacks and white labor as well as the machinations of the managers.


Colonial Records of the Upper Potomac: Volume Six, The French and Indian War and Frontier Devastation, 1755-1761 by William H. Rice.  Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2016.  306 pages, 8.5” X 11” with maps and some photocopies of hand-written original documents.  Trade paperback, $29

This is the last of six books that together provide a plethora of information about the Upper Potomac watershed of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland during the Colonial period.  Not only has William H. Rice of Elkins, West Virginia, combed through and discovered an amazing array of documents found in obscure places, but he also has a rare talent for putting this documentary evidence in context. What a gold mine for present and future historians and genealogists!


Folk-Songs of the South by John Harrington Cox.  Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, a 2016 paperback reprint of WVU Press’s 2013 hardback reprint of a 1925 release from Harvard University Press. 660 pages with an introduction by Alan Jabbour and two indexes.  Trade paperback, $25.

The reason that this fabulous pioneering work on West Virginia folk songs has “the South” in its title instead of “West Virginia” is because in 1925 it was the only folk song collection available anywhere in the South!  This book has the words to 185 “ballads and songs” along with the words and music to 25 “folk songs.” The introductions by both the author and Alan Jabbour recount the fascinating story of the birth and early days of folk song collecting.


The Legacy of John Clay by Baker (Bob) Clay.  Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2016. 118 pages, some of which are photocopies of pertinent pages of other books.  Trade paperback, $25

This genealogical book is mostly concerned with the life of John Clay around Jamestown, Virginia, in the 17th Century, but then changes its focus to his descendants, including Cassius Clay of Madison County, Kentucky, and the Clay families that gather in Beckley, West Virginia, for family reunions.


Moatsville Stories: An Appalachian Upbringing  by David Ball.  Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2014. 210 pages, illustrated with photographs.  Trade Paperback, $17

David Ball is a gregarious and engaging storyteller and writer now retired from federal government service and living back in West Virginia, where he grew up in Barbour County.  His memoir is appealing, articulate, and authentic.


Music’s Journey to Parsons: A Childhood Memoir of Tannery Row by Carolyn Hull Schurmann. Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2015. 85 pages, illustrated by photographs. Trade paperback, $15

A tannery was built in Parsons, West Virginia, in 1893 and later 24 duplexes were built to house workers there. In 1985, all but one of the houses was destroyed by a flood on the Cheat River.  The author, born in 1932, distinguishes this memoir of growing up on Tannery Row by citing songs that were sung there to illuminate other aspects of life.


The Steam and Diesel Era in Wheeling, West Virginia by Nicholas Fry, Gregory Smith & Elizabeth Davis-Young.  Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2016. 178 oblong pages replete with full-page photography by J. J. Young, Jr. , notes, and a bibliography. $45

J. Young began taking photographs of trains around Wheeling in 1936 at the age of seven and continued for almost seventy years until his death in 2004. Five different train lines are represented here as well as local lines. Co-author Young is the widow of the photographer, and Mr. Fry and Mr. Smith are officers of the B & O Railroad Historical Society. This book provides a pleasantly aesthetic view of an important historical era.


Trees of Appalachia by Keith A. Bradley.  Boynton Beach, Florida: Quick Reference Publishing, 2016. 12 fold-out waterproof pages in plastic, nine inches high and four inches wide in full color.  $8

This book presents pictures and text for 63 trees including small trees like mountain laurel that could be called shrubs. Organized by size and color, succinct, authoritative, and perfect for outdoor hikes!


Weeds and Flowers in Our Garden by Brenda K. Wolfe and Duane B. Wolfe. Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 2015. 191 pages. Trade paperback, $23

 Duane Wolfe put this volume together after his wife, Brenda, died of cancer. The book begins with fifteen short stories by Mrs. Wolfe and then thirty-eight by Mr. Wolfe.  Each is a memory of a particular incident from their lives.  The title highlights what Mr. Wolfe articulates as the theme of the book: “childhood experiences can mold our adulthood, if we allow the weeds or bad experiences of the past to control our behavior in the present and future. “ They grew up in Meigs County, Ohio, across the Ohio River from Mason County, West Virginia.


Wildflowers of Appalachia by Keith A. Bradley.  Boynton Beach, Florida: Quick Reference Publishing, 2016.  12 fold-out waterproof pages in plastic, nine inches high and four inches wide in full color, $8

Over 100 regional wildflowers are covered here with pictures and short texts.  They are organized by color and season.  Included are a glossary and bullet points on protecting wildflowers. A perfect companion for woods strolls and hikes.