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The Climb from Salt Lick: A Memoir of Appalachia by Nancy L. Abrams

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The author of this downright compelling memoir, Nancy L. Adams, reminds me of Cheryl Strayed – spirited, frank about sex and pot, and unobtrusively contemplative. The short chapters are separated into even shorter sections, so the book is easy to pick up and put down. The story begins when Abrams, a self-described “Jew-ish” girl from St. Louis, arrives from the University of Missouri School of Journalism to work for the Preston County [West Virginia] News in 1974. Preston County is a land of pastoral and natural beauty located between West Virginia University in Morgantown and the Maryland line, bordered on the north by Pennsylvania, and on the south by hundreds of miles of mountains and small communities all the way to Roanoke, Virginia. Two strands of youth culture rebellion, the working class “outlaw” and the middle class “hippie,” tend to merge in less populated rural areas, and are compatible, mostly, with earning a living. This memoir illuminates this lifestyle as Nancy falls in love with Preston County and a young local man, who she realizes, after she marries him, is, in her words, “barely literate.” The memoir covers fourteen years of her life, until – after she lands a good job with the Morgantown paper - she and her two boys leave her husband and Preston County and move to Morgantown. “Abrams writes sharply and passionately, with a journalist’s skill at laying out compelling facts, and with an artist’s ability to make us experience this life with her.”—Meredith Sue Willis. “A must-read for West Virginians. For journalists and would-be journalists. For feminists, young and old. And mothers. For old hippies and anybody who came of age in the sixties and seventies. For anybody who’s taken a toke or two. For anybody who has tried to balance integrity with duty, dropping out with pursuing a career while trying to succeed as a breadwinner and parent.”—Sara Pritchard.

Morgantown: Vandalia/West Virginia University Press, 2018. 243 pages with photos. Trade paperback