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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Interview with Isaac Coleman, 2011

A 2011 interview with the late activist, Isaac Coleman by Rob NeufeldCivil rights activist and local civic leader Isaac Coleman, born Nov. 6, 1943 in Lexington, Ky., lived his last 44 years in Asheville, and died on May 10, 2016,.We talked in 2011 about his career, starting with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. Q:  Was the SNCC your first involvement in civil rights? A:   I was a student at Knoxville College, an African-American College in Knoxville, Tennessee, and…See More
May 22
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Stories by the River Benefit for Girls Rock Asheville at Ole Shakeys 790 Riverside Drive in AVL

May 21, 2016 from 7pm to 9pm
Sip a drink by the river and enjoy stories and songs on a warm spring day!All donations benefit Girls Rock Asheville!Stories read by:Lori Horvitz  Melanie McGee Bianchi  Kim Winter Mako  Ky Delaney  and Lockie Huntermusical guests Leo+VirgoSee More
May 18
Sue Diehl posted an event
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon at Montreat College, Gaither Fellowship Hall

June 4, 2016 from 12pm to 2pm
Author Susan S. Kelly will the speaker at Montreat College Friends of the Library annual luncheon at noon on Saturday, June 4, 2016.  She is the author of five novels and a major contributing author to Our State Magazine.Call 828-669-8012 Ext. 3502 for Reservations.  $16.00See More
May 17
Sheilah Jastrzebski replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion The history of Oakley
"This is an interesting article.  It gives a few clues to the neighborhood I imagine from the old days. The woman from who my husband and I bought our Oakley home, Melody,  always talks about "Mr. Wilson" who entrusted her with…"
May 16
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The history of Oakley

Oakley is a place with an unforgettable historyby Rob NeufeldAn earlier time PHOTO CAPTION: The Taylor family of Oakley: Jean, Virgil, Sadie Louise, and Dan, c. 1936.  Photo courtesy Dan Taylor.            “We had hobos come to our house, and my mother would never turn them away,” Dan Taylor says of his experience…See More
May 13
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
May 13
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Juniper Bends quarterly poetry and prose reading at Downtown Books and News

May 6, 2016 from 7pm to 9pm
Join your fellow literature-craving citizens at the next upcoming Juniper Bends reading on Friday May 6th at 7PM. We will be luxuriating in sound, soaking up nutritious poetry & prose after the dark winter. Our series aims to bring together both established and emerging writers, and we are honored to bring together Gary Hawkins, Catherine Campbell, Stephanie Johnson and Michael Pittard's collective word-magic for this lovely spring evening. As usual, our generous host site is Downtown Books…See More
May 3
Jack Underwood shared a profile on Facebook
May 3
Rob Neufeld commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"Edwin, some are touched by the Holy Spirit, and find voice to our amazement.  Yet there are many who are not heard, no matter how much we'd like to hear.  How will you amaze? "
May 2
Edwin Ammons commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"Do none consider that a greater power has designed all this and that all these recent discoveries are a tiny part of it? von Humboldt will not rise from the dust until I do and I am still upright so he must wait. Upon that eventful day it will be…"
May 2
Joe Epley posted a blog post

Military Writers Society of America

Joe Epley recently was elected to Board of Directors of the Military Writers Society of America.  The MWSA has around 700 members around the country. Details on the website: http://www.mwsadispatches.com.  ; The organization's purpose is to help military service members, veterans, their families, supporters of the military,and historians record history and the complexities of military life--and encourage writing as therapy. The…See More
May 1
susannah eanes commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"So chuffed about this! Sadly, I won't be there except in spirit. Andrea Wulf is a force of nature, herself. Her amazing work The Brother Gardeners should be made into a feature-length film - the characters live and breathe again between the…"
Apr 30
Evelyn Asher updated their profile
Apr 30
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1

Author of key book of our times comes to AshevilleAndrea Wulf makes Malaprop's Bookstore one her stops, Sun., May 1, 5 p.m., in talking about her thrilling work of non-fiction, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von…See More
Apr 30
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Salman Rushdie to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
Apr 25
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Apr 25

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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