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This is a story told from many points of view. First is Zebulon Vance, the real life Civil War governor of North Carolina. We follow him from his days as a hotel porter fresh off the farm until his rise to governor. Next is Malinda Blalock, a tough mountain woman who follows her husband to war and beyond. Then there’s Rattler, a modern day man with a touch of the second sight who realizes that the Civil War re-enactors of the mountains are calling up uneasy spirits who are best left alone.
I enjoyed reading about my region’s role in the Civil War. I’d heard somewhere that we were exceptionally torn apart during that conflict because we weren’t wealthy landowners and so had no clear-cut reason to join either side. This book showed that.
The voices of the different narrators were done very well. They were each very distinct. The only negative I have to say about it is that Malinda’s voice didn’t ring entirely true. The author gave it a good try, but she didn’t quite get the accent and the language right. Lee Smith does a much better job with our Appalachian dialect.
There was one other narrator in the book, but he had a very minor role. In fact, I’m not entirely sure why his parts were even included. He only had a few chapters, but I felt like they could have been cut out completely without really hurting the story.
I’ll be a little devilish here and say that I also enjoyed the way McCrumb wrote about our transplants from Florida. They were sort of caricatures, and we don’t really think they’re all like that, but we do feel like some newcomers think us locals are barbarians who should just leave and let them enjoy their cliffside homes. A little brutally honest, perhaps, but there you go.
But overall, this was an interesting book. I wasn’t riveted to the page, but I did enjoy it. Not enough to think about reading it again, but it was time well-spent.
Reviewed October 14, 2008
I don’t even remember the Florida part! I should mention that my husband moved here from Florida. But when a non-local woman introduces an author born and raised in the area (not McCrumb) and says, “I’ve never actually met a local, as long as I’ve lived here,” there is a problem; we aren’t hard to find. True story.
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Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.