Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, genealogy and family history, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats.

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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.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Them That Go

 I've already blogged about my Appalachian novel while I was writing it. In mid-December, I posted "Novel in Progess," followed in late December by "Novel-in-Progress Progress." In mid-February, I posted "Book Cover Cabin Door." In anticipation of the novel being published, I added a Them That Go page to my website

Now I can actually blog about the book itself. Forty copies of my self-pubbed novel, Them That Go, arrived from CreateSpace last week. They were immediately give a cat scan:

The cover isn't quite the way I wanted it to look, but some friends recently made some minor adjustments. So, likely the books in my next order will look slightly different. I suppose that'll make these first forty collector editions. Or maybe not.

Anyhow, with a signing coming up at the Franklin County Library at 6 PM on Tuesday, March 22, it occurred to me that I should get the word out about what Them That Go is about. The back of the book gives a hint, but not much else. (But no one will see the back of the book because books self-pubbed through CreateSpace aren't in book stores—but they're on Amazon.)
The info on my website doesn't go into a lot of detail. The blurb on Amazon that's supposed to pique potential readers' interest gives more hints but doesn't really tell what happens either:

A secret revealed, A mystery solved, A life forever changed. In 1972, seventeen-year-old Annie Caldwell, who has the “gift” of animal communication, wants to be normal, but she’ll settle for being unnoticed. Annie’s brother died in Vietnam, her mother is depressed, and her father drinks. Her only friend is elderly Aint Lulie—who lives in the same holler and who understands the gift because she has one, too: “The first daughter in ever’ other generation has always been blest with a gift, though some think it a curse.” As they sit by the fireplace in the evenings and tell each other stories, Aint Lulie shares family history with Annie, including a relative’s mysterious death and how some of their ancestors came to settle in the area: “There’s always been them that go and them that stay in ever’ generation.” When a local girl goes missing, Aint Lulie’s and Annie’s gifts can help solve the mystery—but if Annie speaks up, she can no longer go unnoticed. THEM THAT GO is an Appalachian coming-of-age novel rich in tradition, superstition, family ties, and secrets.

Them That Go is told from the viewpoint of Annie Caldwell, a senior at Bosworth County High School who is able to communicate with animals. This gift and her poverty set her apart from her classmates, so she tries to go unnoticed. She takes showers when she helps out in PE class, gets a free lunch, and has only two friends at school. Every evening, she visits her elderly Aint Lulie—the only one who accepts Annie as who she really is. After her English class studies Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken,"Annie chooses to ignore her gift, and gradually becomes more accepted by her classmates. Annie is good in home ec, and the teacher pays her to help out at the Harvest Dance. There, Annie observes a disagreement between the popular cheerleader and the quarterback. At church the next day, she learns that both are missing. And that leads to many complications—and a few plot twists. But I don't really want to give away those complications and twists in this blog-post.

Them That Go has already received a couple of blog reviews from writers I know. On her Imagine blog, Ginny Brock, a "gifted" author of By Morning's Light, posted "The Mountains Hold Secrets—and Spirits." This is part of what she says this about Them That Go:

This is Becky Mushko at her best. Superbly written, "Them That Go"  is set in Appalachia in the 1970's. She has lit a torch and shone a light through the woodlands and valleys of the mountains exposing the illiteracy, poverty and the joy that coexists in 'them thar hills.' It's a telescope into the often stereotyped secretive existence of a musical people, sometimes gun-toting, hard-drinking, bible bashing folk we hardly know.

In my opinion it's a valuable learning tool as we, so many of us transplanted from other places, try to get a handle on the people who live around us. Our neighbors, who are so like us in so many ways. Except for Annie who is 'different'.

 On her Blue Country Magic blog, Botetourt writer Anita Firebaugh posted "Book Review: Them That Go". From her review:

This magical realism story is set in a believable world. Annie's magical gift sets her apart in a place already separated from the rest of the country. Her town is one of the forgotten landscapes that dot that area, filled with the characters frequently found in similar areas throughout Appalachia. Some of these characters speak in written dialect. This style of writing can be difficult for some readers, but Mushko handles it with great skill and the dialect adds to the magic of the story instead of detracting from it, as over-done dialect sometimes does.

Mushko has created an interesting character in Annie Caldwell, a young woman the reader won't soon forget. What might someone with her talent ultimately make of her life? Thankfully, the author offers us a foreshadowing of Annie's future the end of the book, giving a satisfying ending that does not leave the reader wondering.

 Anyhow, Them That Go is out and about, albeit on a limited scale. The print version is for sale on this Amazon page, and the Kindle version is on this page. The book is available from me anytime I do readings—like 6 PM on March 22 at the Franklin County Library in downtown Rocky Mount, or 2 PM on April 14 at the Westlake Library in Hardy. Before long, I hope to get some into a few local gift shops.

The best way to find out what the book is actually about is to buy the book.


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