Since the book consists of several short stories, there is no recurring theme to discuss or review, although the first five chapters are about one family, who after living and working in a mining camp save enough money to buy a place of their own. Those chapters are entitled:
I Love My Rooster
The Proud Walkers
Journey to the Forks
On Quicksand Creek
The other stories are unrelated to the first five chapters and stand alone as glimpses of Appalachian life. Most of the stories are told by a young boy, eight or nine in the first stories and a bit older in the remaining stories. Most of the stories likely took place in the 1920’s.
James Still made extensive use of the unique Southern dialect of the region. For example, “nary” for “never a”, “hit” for “it”, “fotch” for “fetch” and so on. The sun is referred to as the “sun-ball”, the moon as the “moon-ball”. I have to admit that I came across a few words I had to look up! As is pointed out in the book’s foreword, “[M]any of their peculiar words go back to older forms of the standard language or to the British county dialects.”
The chapter entitled “One Leg Gone to Judgment” humorously ended with:
O hit’s a quare feeling to get one piece of you buried and gone to judgment before the rest of you dies. I’m afraid I might have a busted hard time getting myself together on resurrection day.
(You’ll have to read the book to find out what that’s all about!)
James Still passed away in 2001; here is an excerpt from his obituary:
His early work was part of a literary flowering in the South in the 1920s and 1930s that included such noted authors as Thomas Wolfe, William Faulkner and Kentuckians Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Jesse Stuart, Harriette Simpson Arnow, Caroline Gordon, Allen Tate, Cleanth Brooks, and Robert Penn Warren.
Mr. Still’s novel of mountain folk life, River of Earth (1940), was called a “work of art” by Time magazine and is considered a classic unquestionably his most enduring work of prose. It has been compared with John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath as one of the most poignant evocations of the Depression era.
The book is not long and can probably be read in one afternoon. If you enjoy reading stories about life in Appalachia, I think you will find this book a great read. Oh, and to find out about the book’s title, you’ll have to read the very last story!
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.