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The history of Oakley 1 Reply

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History. Last reply by Sheilah Jastrzebski May 16.

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Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Award-winning novelist captures fleeting youthby Rob NeufeldAnother Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (Amistad: HarperCollins, Aug. 9, 2016)            The amazing, unusual thing about Jacqueline Woodson’s new novel, “Another Brooklyn,” I realize as it sinks in, is that the initial mystery—that is, why the narrator can’t…See More
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A rare interview, a story about an acid plant

A worker’s view of tannery work in Rosmanby Rob Neufeld             Haskell Luker was 11 when the Flood of 1916 caused his dad, Americus Alfred Luker, to leave the farm where he worked and take a job with an acid (tannin) plant in Pisgah Forest.             “Daddy was going down there to make big…See More
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Interview with Chitra Divakaruni about Before We Visit the Goddess

A talk with Chitra about her benediction of a novelby Rob Neufeld             Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, one of our country’s most engaging and inventive novelists, first came to this region six years ago for Western Carolina University’s Spring Literary Festival.  That’s when I got to know her and began…See More
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Gary Carden's Outlander--about Kephart--at UNCA July 31--with author

Is Carden's Kephart play controversial?Gary Carden's play, "Outlander," receives a "staged reading" in the Reuter Center, UNC Asheville, 2 p.m., Sun., July 31.  Carden will be on hand to discuss the play with the audience.  It is a controversial play in that it has been criticized by the descendants of Horace Kephart who felt that the play "demeaned" Kephart.  "Ironically," Carden says, "my original purpose in writing the play was to 'redeem' Kephart. who has often been denounced by the…See More
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Bring Back the Game

BRING BACK THE GAME     Anna and I basically spent a month in Asheville, NC this summer. We returned to Georgia a few days ago, and while we were glad to get home, as we got out of the car, we were met with the suffocating heat that I still have not become acclimated to even though we have lived in Middle Georgia for over 30 years. Every plant in our backyard had dried up and only the belligerent squirrels had survived the summer’s inferno.      We had a great time in Asheville. We visited our…See More
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Amy Ammons Garza to Present Her Memoir at City Lights Bookstore

August 6, 2016 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Amy Garza will be presenting her new memoir, Appalachian Storyteller in a Feed Sack Dress, at City Lights Bookstore onSaturday, August 6th at 3 p.m. Follow Amy as she tells the story of her life as she lived it, each chapter being a story in itself. These are the compelling stories of a mountain girl who found the courage she needed in her life to listen and retell the stories of her family and heritage.  Amy Garza was born and raised in Western North Carolina, which leads her into her many…See More
Jul 16

Horror and home call in Fairview novel

by Rob Neufeld

 

            In the midst of multiple life-changing events, Karen Godwell abandons Manhattan to return home to Hickory Nut Gap in Rose Senehi’s sixth novel, “Render unto the Valley.”

            Karen’s brother, Travis, has just defrauded their grandmother of the family farm.  And Karen’s husband, Joel, has just died of cancer. 

            After 15 years, she realizes that she may not be cut out to be Curator of Special Exhibitions in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The Folk Art Center director job in Asheville is open, and she takes a big cut in salary to make the move.

            With her is her ten-year-old daughter, Hali, who’d been mentored by her free-thinking father.  He’d asked her to make sure her mom was okay after he passed.  Plus, there’s a cat, named Bonnie.

 

Home to horror

 

            Back home, Karen quickly meets up with her younger sister, Amy, a kennel operator; and with Travis, a panic-inducing wheeler-dealer with a hidden psychosis.

            We learn about the psychosis in the first chapter, dated February 1985, a flashback to Karen’s childhood involving a floosy mother and extreme poverty. 

            The kids had had to collect kindling for winter heat.  One day, Karen had roused Amy, prying Missy, Amy’s puppy, from her arms.  She “watched the poor little critter limp across the room on three legs.  Of all the hateful things Travis ever did, cutting off Missy’s leg was the meanest.”

            In a fiction-writing tradition that includes William Faulkner’s character, Cash, in “The Sound and the Fury,” the creepy family member has proven to be a great plot device.  Senehi uses it in a thriller formula, and does a great job ramping up suspense.  The Travis story builds in creepiness and Senehi gets a lot out of it. 

What complicity did Karen share in protecting and enabling Travis as a child; and then skipping town to leave Amy with him?  And why did Amy, Karen asks herself about recent events, “allow Travis to stay alone in the house with Granny”?  What had gone on in the house when Travis had gotten Granny to sign over all her money and property to him?  Can Granny, now in a nursing home suffering from dementia, help?

            Other suspense elements pile on, including the trials of a beleaguered land conservation agency; and the romantic interests of its legal counsel, Tom Gibbons.  Senehi has no problem interweaving these story lines smartly.

            Filling a novel with an ambitious amount of melodramatic incident is one way of writing a good novel.  It’s a ship-in-a-storm type of vehicle.  Doing so, however, misses out on an aspect of realism—the degree to which lives are dominated by humdrum events and interpretations of their symbolism.

            For example, the part of Karen’s mind rooted to her profession—she’d been a workaholic in the top of her field for her adult life—gets short shrift.  And what about Bonnie, the cat?  There are pets all over this story.  Bonnie is a huge symbol as well as a companion.  In another novel, Hali, much less sure of herself, would be paying attention to her cat.

 

Local details

 

            Senehi offsets suspense with local preservation and history details, and delivers handsomely.

            “You remember the deal Jack Reece made for the Grassy Patch Mountain tract over in Lake Lure?” Tom Gibbons asks his director, Kevin.  Reece’s conservation agency had backed out of the sale and passed it to Kevin’s and Tom’s.

            It’s not hard to detect its real-life parallel in Weedy Patch Mountain.

            History comes up again when Karen’s cousin, Bruce, responds to Hali’s interest in medicine. “Back in the 1800s,” he says, “there used to be a woman who owned the Sherrill’s Inn property who doctored folks.  Her name was Ann Ashworth and they called her a witch” because of her use of herbs and formulas.

            Senehi has dedicated her book, “For Bruce Whitaker who has kept the history of Fairview.”

            There are many other local references in the novel.  Senehi provides an index to “places mentioned in this book” in an appendix. 

The geography seeps into personal lives, as when Tom takes further interest in Karen when he learns that she’d told Hali about the rare species of salamander that resides on Karen’s family’s land.

            As in a “Mission: Impossible” movie, Senehi pulls some punches in “Render unto the Valley” in order to guide her plot toward a prescribed end; but even late in the novel, there are some intriguing surprises.

            Ignore the archaic title and glib first paragraph—the only place where you’ll find literary metaphors—and enjoy the ride.  Karen and her sister provide headstrong leadership; and Tom and Bruce, great commentary.

 

THE BOOK

Render unto the Valley by Rose Senehi (K.I.M. Publishing trade paper, Jan. 2012, 292 pages, $15.95).

 

MEET THE AUTHOR

Rose Senehi launches her novel, “Render unto the Valley,” 12 noon, Thurs., Jan. 19, at Lake Lure Inn, with lunch ($25 per person to benefit the Mountains Branch Library, call  

She also presents her book at:

  • Malaprop’s Bookstore, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 3 p.m., Sat. Jan. 28 (254-6734).
  • Barnes & Noble, Tunnel Rd., Asheville, 1 to 4 p.m., Sun., Jan. 29.
  • Fountainhead Books, 408 N. Main St., Hendersonville, 6:30 p.m., Fri., Feb. 3 (697-1870).
  • Barnes & Noble, Town Square at Biltmore Park, Asheville, 1 to 4 p.m., Sun., Feb. 5.
  • Hendersonville Public Library, 301 N. Washington St., Hendersonville, 2 p.m., Wed., Feb. 8 (697-4725).

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