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, May 26, 2016

Prayers the Devil Answers

I'm a great fan of both Appalachian literature and Sharyn McCrumb. I recently read Sharyn McCrumb's new book, Prayers the Devil Answers, and enjoyed it. This novel featured multiple points of view, a technique that I especially like. I liked it's strong sense of place and time—a sense I consider important in an Appalachian novel. I also found the main character, Ellendor Robbins, interesting.  

Prayers the Devil Answers begins in the early 1900s in Appalachia, where six girls hold a Dumb Supper to see who their husbands will be. This supper is held at midnight in an abandoned cabin, and the girls must follow a set ritual. They must not speak and must set the table with their backs turned toward it. They must serve also serve any male guest with their backs turned. But Celia drops a knife and tries to cover her error. (For those unfamiliar with the dumb supper, the Blind Pig and the Acorn had a post about it a couple of years ago.) Only two men show up, and they eventually marry the girls who served them. The homely Greer sisters remain spinsters, and unmarried Celia becomes a school teacher.

Soon the action moves ahead several years to the depression era, where Ellendor Robbins—who has no previous connection with the Dumb Supper—has moved with her husband Albert and their two young sons from the mountain farm owned by Albert's brother Henry to a small railroad town.

 In the same town, artist Larry Varden has been hired to paint a mural in the post office. When he decides to paint the Cherokee Attack at Fort Watauga, he needs to research how the fort looked. Thus he visits the school teacher Celia. Eventually he marries her.

Sidenote: During the depression, many artists painted murals in post offices across the country. Here's my copy of the one that's in the Rocky Mount, VA, post office:

Albert soon tires of his job as a machinist and becomes a deputy sheriff.  He successfully runs for sheriff, but dies three months after he's elected. His widow, left with two sons and no means of support, takes over his job. Eventually, Ellendor Robbins, Lonnie Varden, and Celia are connected by unhappy circumstance. Could what happened at the Dumb Supper have caused it?

I won't give away the ending, but suffice to say this is a dark book. But it's a compelling one. I kept turning pages to see what happened next.

I was hoping to get Sharyn to sign my copy next Tuesday when she'll speak at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Moneta. But, alas, my recent surprise surgery and its resultant recuperation time will prevent my attending.

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