In my over 40 years as a bookseller specializing in books about the Appalachian Region no book has been claimed as a personal favorite by more people than FAIR AND TENDER LADIES! This book is clearly iconic in the field, and its protagonist, Ivy Rowe, is an exemplary leading lady. The author, Lee Smith, told me that she had Ivy Rowe born in 1900 "so I could do the math." Thus Ivy Rowe's life story serves as a kind of guide to what was happening in the coal fields of Appalachia throughout the 20th Century. The story is told in the epistolary mode, and Ivy's first letters are written when she is very young and disconcertingly wise to some, but keep with it. The story is likely to grow on you! Lee Smith grew up in the Virginia coalfields and is one of a handful of the most distinguished contemporary Appalachian writers.
New York: Ballantine Books, a 1993 paperback edition of a 1988 release. 316 pages plus "A Conversation with the author."