Amy Greene, Alfred A. Knopf, Dutton, March 2008, $25.95,HC,464pp, 978-0-525-95054-7.
Byrdie Lamb was said to be one of those witches from Chickweed Holler, one who as they say had “the touch”. She gave birth to five children and buried four. Her last child Clio has a wandering, adventurous spirit and is not happy staying at home with Byrdie, so it comes as no surprise when she runs away to get married. One day Clio and her husband are killed, leaving behind her daughter Myra. Byrdie’s relationship with Clio was never close, but she is devoted to Myra. They live together on Bloodroot Mountain, an inseparable pair. Brydie shares her ways with her, all is good until John Odom catches Myra's eye. Like her mama before her, Myra leaves Bloodroot Mountain to get married.
At this point, the reader picks up the story from Myra’s children’s point of view. They are twins, a son and a daughter. Myra’s life unfolds in Greene’s intricate, multi-layered story that holds together like a carefully laid mosaic. Byrdie, Doug, John Odom, Laura Odom Blevins, and finally Myra share a piece of the tale adding dimensions from their memories of the past as the truth is revealed through them. The expressive, tangible characters and breath with a hint of Appalachia in their souls. The story takes place from 1929 at the beginning of the Great Depression through today.
The pain of the characters,breathtakingly warm and genuine, will penetrate deep into your heart. Greene’s story about family, forgiveness and healing, is summarized beautifully in her words, “It’s not forgetting that heals. It’s remembering.”
Although told with a smooth measured cadence the story moves with unstoppable momentum. Sobbing as the final pages were read, I sat motionless, deep in thought with the opened book on my lap. A poignant debut with emotional depth.
Disclosure: This ARC was sent to me for review from Historical Novels Review.
Original review published in Historical Novels Review, Issue 52, May 2010 as an Editor's Choice.