This book is essentially a memoir in the form of cryptic vignettes and sort essays. The first section deals with her life as a child; the next with her education; the third with her mother’s descent into dementia, and the last with her mother’s death and her own emergence from that set-back. “Voice Lessons plumbs the complex and often painful negotiations of Appalachian women who spend their lives moving between worlds: between working-class Appalachia and upper-middle-class academia; between the worlds of mothers and daughters; and, most bittersweet of all, between the spheres of family and self. The beauty of McElmurray's prose in tension with her unflinching look at difficult subjects leaves you after reading her with ripples through your heart.” -Ann Pancake. “Tug your voice up from the water, a friend told Karen Salyer McElmurray. Let it swell to bursting, a wicked and beautiful bloom. Here, the writer heeds that friend's advice. In luminous prose, McElmurray's voice rises up and carries with it the echoes and textures of the people and places she's known-the murmurs of odd-turned women, the creak of old floorboards, the ringing of temple bells. More than anything, these lyrical essays bear witness to the necessity and transcendence of language itself-its extraordinary resplendence, balm, and light. -Sonja Livingston. Karen Salyer McElmurray is the author of three cutting-edge novels and a poignant memoir, Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey. She grew up in Eastern Kentucky and has worked mostly as a college professor.
Oak Ridge, Tennessee: Iris Press, 2021. 125 pages. Trade paperback.