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Black Mountain Breakdown by Lee Smith

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Lee Smith is simply not only one of the most popular Appalachian authors, she is also one of the most loved. Her magnetic personality spills out all over every room she enters. Lee Smith was born and grew up in Grundy, Virginia, deep in the coalfields. Her father owned and operated the Dimestore store there. Black Mountain Breakdown is set in a town very much like Grundy. The protagonist, Crystal Spangler, is summed up by the author in her book of autobiographical essays, Dimestore, as "so busy fitting into others' images of her (first fulfilling her mother's beauty-queen dreams, then altering her image to please the various men in her life) that she loses her own true self and finally ends up  paralyzed."  Lee goes on to write, "When I wrote that, my first marriage should have ended years earlier, something I'd been unable to face or even admit; later, reading those words over, I finally understood how I'd felt during the last part of that marriage." One of the aspects of this novel that I love the most is that Crystal's parents live in the same house, but they have essentially separated. They have divided not just their lives, but their home into two very separate domains. Her mother controls the kitchen which she seldom leaves, and her father controls the living room where he stays almost all the time. "Black Mountain Breakdown is like a country song. It is true and real; it is loving and sad." — Annie Dillard - Lee's roommate at Hollins College and a distinguished author.