Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Mama's Shoes

Mama's Shoes, a novel by Grundy native Rebecca Elswick, is a wonderful blend of both Appalachian and Southern fiction. I loved the book and couldn't put it down.

Here's the book description on its Amazon page:

By the time Sylvia Richardson is eighteen, she has buried her parents; given birth to a daughter; and become a widow. It is 1942, and World War II has destroyed Sylvia's dream of dancing in red heels through life to the melody of a Hank Snow record. Instead, she is raising her daughter, Sassy, alone in the coal mining town she vowed to leave behind.By 1955, thirteen-year-old Sassy has been brought up on a stiff dose of Mama's lessons on how to be a lady-even though Mama drinks, smokes, and dates a myriad of men. But everything changes the day a woman accuses Sylvia of trying to steal her husband, forcing Sassy to come to terms with her Mama's harsh teen years. For Sylvia, only the support of kith and kin can rescue her from her mistakes.
Told in rotating viewpoints of Sylvia Richardson, her daughter Sassy, and occasionally Sylvia's boss/best friend, the story moves effortlessly back and forth from the 1940s through 1960. The reader gets a chance to walk in the shoes of both main characters. I'm partial to stories told from multiple first person viewpoints, and Elswick skillfully uses this technique to show how both Sylvia and Sassy come of age and come to terms with their lives. 

I like small town settings. Coal Valley is almost a character in itself. Elswick has peopled the town with interesting characters.

Best-selling Appalachian author Lee Smith provided the cover blurb for Mama's Shoes:

From its first perfect paragraph straight through to its hard-won resolution, Mama's shoes is an absolutely wonderful novel, its setting a beautifully realized Appalachian coal town, its characters so vivid they're practically jumping off the page. There's conflict aplenty here too—between truth and lies, rich and poor, past and present—as thriteen-year-old Sassy tries to determine the truth of who she really is. Rebecca Elswick captures her readers by writing straight from the heart.
If I had one quibble (and it's a very minor one), it would a small error in time. Toward the end, Sassy goes—Oops! Telling you where would spoil the narrative. But in reality, Sassy couldn't have gone to that particular place at that time. Of course the story isn't real, and fiction writers can have things happen whenever they want. But Mama's Shoes seemed real, and the characters were so believable.

If you like Southern/Appalachian literature, odds are good you'll love Mama's Shoes. I highly recommend it.

Elswick's blog, "Ruminations and Reflections by Rebecca Elswick," is here. I recommend it, too.



Blogger CountryDew said...

Thanks for the review. Sounds like one to add to the list.

6:19 PM  

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