Thanksgiving is next week, and many of us will have a break from our regular duties. So, it’s a great time to enjoy a book . Here is one of Tutor Amy’s favorite books.
James Still River of Earth ( 245 pages)
Reviewed by Amy Sexton, Writing Center Tutor, Kaplan University Writing Center
Who should read this book? Anyone who appreciates a solid, strong sense of place in fiction will enjoy the imagery of the Appalachian mountains and their creatures and people. Anyone who enjoys regional literature should appreciate Still’s use of dialect, descriptive language, and sensory details. Readers who are attracted to strong female characters should delight in the characters of Alpha Baldridge and her mother, known only as Ma and Grandma.
Summary: Set in Appalachian Kentucky, River of Earth chronicles the hard lives of members of the Baldridge and Middleton families around the time of the Great Depression as they struggle internally and externally with the changes of industrialism, which in the Appalachian region meant that many farmers went from needing only the land to feed their families to relying on a violate coal-mining industry.
Why I picked this book? River of Earth is one of those books that sticks with you. I read it for the first time over 15 years ago, and its words and characters have lingered with me since. It is considered an Appalachian classic, and I can relate to the struggles the family experiences as I come from a family supported by coal mining and understand the trials of hard-working coal miners in a boom or bust economy, then and now.
Favorite quotes from the book: Brack Baldridge, Alpha’s husband, expressing his desire to return to coal mining: “I’m longing to git me a pick and stick it in a coal vein. I can’t draw a clean breath of air outside a mine this time o’ year. It’s like a horse trying to breathe with his nose in a meal poke.” Alpha, on Brack’s intention to uproot the family and leave their home and small piece of land behind to live in a coal camp: “Forever moving yon and back, setting down nowhere for good and all, searching for God knows what,….Where air we expecting to draw up to?”