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Terra Incognita: An Annotated Bibliography of the Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smokies literature unfolds in guideby Rob Neufeld             Immersing yourself in the deep recesses of our region’s literature has just become easier.            The University of Tennessee Press has engaged experts to scour archives for publications about the Great Smoky Mountains, 1544 to 1934; and they’ve…See More
5 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
5 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Bobby Norfolk starts storytelling, June 28

Bobby Norfolk Throws First Pitch for Kaleidoscope: Celebrating Diversityat Stories on Asheville’s Front Porch 2014from press release June 28 eventBobby Norfolk, three-time Emmy Award-winner is the lead storyteller for the fifth season of Stories on Asheville’s Front Porch--Kaleidoscope: Celebrating Diversity, June 28 in the Rhino Courtyard of Pack Place.  The stories begin at 10:30 a.m., rain or shine, and are free to the public.  Entrances to the Rhino Courtyard are from Biltmore Avenue under…See More
6 hours ago
Evelyn Asher posted photos
11 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Inez and Annie Daugherty and African American history

The Daughertys of Black Mountain spanned racial historyby Rob Neufeld             “The children in Cragmont (an African American neighborhood in Black Mountain) and High Top Colony, where my family lived, walked to school in groups,” Daugherty recalled about her 1920s childhood in a talk she had with me in 2005.            “White children rode the bus,” she revealed.  “They sometimes threw things at us and called us ugly names, but my mother told me, ‘You know who you are.  Those names do not…See More
Tuesday
Sue Diehl posted an event

MONTREAT COLLEGE FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY LUNCHEON at Montreat College, Gaither Fellowship Hall, Montreat, NC

June 21, 2014 from 12pm to 2:30pm
Pamela Duncan, author of Moon Women, Plant Life, and The Big Beautiful, will be the speaker at the Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon on Saturday, June 21, 2014, in the Gaither Fellowship Hall.See More
Monday
Rose Senehi posted events
Apr 11
Jerald Pope posted an event

It ain’t for wimps: readings on aging at Monte Vista Hotel

April 17, 2014 from 6pm to 7pm
Increased life expectancy brings with it increased opportunities, problems, and responsibilities. Both the aged and the pre-aged will find much to ponder at the Black Mountain Authors Guild’s reading at the Monte Vista this Thursday at 6 pm. Four local writers will share their thinking on the subject: Danielle Laverty will read her essay on aging that won the Black Mt. Public Library contest, Nancy Werking Poling will read from her current and published fiction, and James and Cannan Hyde will…See More
Apr 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Asheville Wordfest May 2-4, 2014

Asheville Wordfest 2014(Photo top right, Laurey Masterton from Asheville Chamber of Commerce; 2nd photo, Laura Hope-Gill from www.thehealingseed.com) A webpage in progress!Asheville Wordfest, an annual…See More
Apr 8
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Fiddler of the Mountains by Eva Nell Mull Wike

Fiddler and His FamilyFiddler of the Mountains: Attuned to the Life and Times of Johnny Mull by Eva Nell Mull Wike (Donning Company hardcover, Nov. 2013, 96 pages, $25)See other new WNC books Wike, author of the…See More
Apr 7
William Roy Pipes posted a blog post

Four Novels Are Now Available

I now have four Novels in print. A fifth Novel, True Love, is finished, but to date not yet published. The four available on-line are: Darby, my bestselling Appalachian novel; Hanging Dog, An Appalachian Community, is a sequel to Darby, Doodlebug, Doodlebug, Your House is on Fire, an Appalachian novel beginning in 1940; and a novelette, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, a murder mystery full of intrigue, danger, and espionage. All four novels are available on Amazon.com and wherever books are…See More
Apr 7
Bill Ramsey posted a blog post

Brain Injury Recovery

Brain injury recovery is difficult and anything but certain. When I met Angela Leigh Tucker in late 2008, she was only four months into her battle. A sudden truck-on-car crash had killed her young husband and left her hanging on to life by a thread.For the next three years I researched the topic of traumatic brain injury or TBI. Angela and I travelled together to meeting of brain injury survivors and conferences on the subject. I interviewed countless doctors, therapists, co-workers, family…See More
Apr 7
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Apr 5
Malaprop's Bookstore Cafe posted events
Apr 4
Laura Hope-Gill updated their profile
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Laura Hope-Gill posted an event
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Asheville Wordfest May 2, 3, 4: Fiction, Poetry, Storytelling, more! at Asheville Lenoir-Rhyne University

May 2, 2014 at 5pm to May 4, 2014 at 5pm
Asheville Wordfest reaches its seventh year (lucky lucky!) with an expansion to include fiction, poetry, storytelling, songwriting, community conversation, poetry animation, and creative nonfiction. Coming of age with the help of North Carolina Arts Council, Katuah Market, Fine Arts Theater, Malaprops Bookstore/Cafe, and more than thirty writers, poets, musicians, and songwriters, Wordfest continues its commitment the Asheville and WNC communities, representing as many of our communities as the…See More
Apr 3

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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