Affiliated Networks


Events

Forum

Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Oct 6, 2017.

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25, 2017.

Badge

Loading…

Latest Activity

Nancy Werking Poling posted an event

Nancy Werking Poling at Black Mountain Library

June 15, 2019 from 3pm to 4pm
Can women rescue the planet from ecological disaster?Nancy Werking Poling will launch her new novel, WHILE EARTH STILL SPEAKS, set in WNC. She'll tell the stories behind the story: How did Mary (more crone than virgin) get into the narrative? And Mary Surratt, a co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth?See More
Jun 10
Caroline McIntyre posted events
Apr 29
Rob Neufeld updated their profile
Apr 13
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Flat Rock history via a road

Travelling back in time on a Flat Rock roadby Rob Neufeld             If you walk the one mile length of North Highland Lake Road in Flat Rock, you step nearly 200 years into the past.            At the east end, the 21st century reigns.  Fronting six-lane Spartanburg Highway, a super-Ingles sits above a bog; and a CVS store faces an Octopus Garden smoke shop, a chiropractor, a cell phone provider, and a six-lane avenue to I-26 a mile away .            Neither Ingles nor CVS carries the big…See More
Apr 8
George Ellison left a comment for Renea Winchester
"luv ya Renea ... Kephart bio finally done after 40 years ... free at last ... free at last... great god almighty ... free a last!"
Apr 5
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event
Thumbnail

Connie Regan-Blake Storytelling at Hendersonville Public Library at Henderson County Public Library - Main Branch

June 13, 2019 from 6pm to 7pm
Join Connie Regan-Blake for a family oriented evening of stories at the Hendersonville Library.See More
Apr 1
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
Thumbnail

Connie Regan-Blake’s 14th Annual Summer Storytelling Retreat & Adventure at StoryWindow Productions

July 14, 2019 at 10am to July 20, 2019 at 4pm
Come to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville for 7 days of story-listening & story-telling along with coaching, community & supportive exploration. This 14th annual workshop welcomes all levels of expertise, from beginner to experienced teller. Participants discover ways of being in the world that nurture your creative flow while developing skills to: Find, create, learn, and polish storiesEffectively integrate voice with image,…See More
Apr 1
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
Thumbnail

Connie Regan-Blake presents A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 6, 2019 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Please join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her workshop participants in an enchanting evening of storytelling in “A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories.” Here are the tellers for our April 6th “Slice of Life” performance.  Christine Phillips Westfeldt, Kyra Freeman, Steve Tate, Alberta Hipps and more! The event is hosted by the …See More
Apr 1
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
Thumbnail

Connie Regan-Blake's Taking Your Story to the Stage Workshop at StoryWindow Productions

April 5, 2019 to April 7, 2019
The focus of this “Taking Your Story to the Stage” 3-day workshop is on storytelling performance. Each participant is asked to come with a story that is almost “stage-ready.” Set in Connie’s home tucked in the beautiful mountains surrounding Asheville, NC, this workshop provides a supportive,…See More
Apr 1
Rap Monster posted a blog post

Stealth Hazy - 'Gun Clap'

Stealth Hazy - Gun ClapI got 80 rounds with a beam on it riding dirty I'm smoking chronic top off hear that system pound 808 thats subsonicI double down quadruple upstraight droppin with no cutwilt chamberlain on the reboundand you a fan just starstruckI…See More
Mar 26
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Connie Regan-Blake’s 14th Annual Summer Storytelling Retreat & Adventure at StoryWindow Productions

July 14, 2019 at 10am to July 20, 2019 at 4pm
Come to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville for 7 days of story-listening & story-telling along with coaching, community & supportive exploration. This 14th annual workshop welcomes all levels of expertise, from beginner to experienced teller. Participants discover ways of being in the world that nurture your creative flow while developing skills to: Find, create, learn, and polish storiesEffectively integrate voice with image,…See More
Mar 2
Sue Diehl shared their event on Facebook
Feb 8
Sue Diehl posted an event
Thumbnail

Montreat College Friends of the Library Celebrate National Library Week at Graham Chapel, Gaither Hall, Montreat College, Montreat, NC

April 9, 2019 from 3pm to 5pm
Patti Callahan, author of the recent novel Becoming Mrs. Lewis, and Don W. King author of Out of My Bone: the Letters of Joy Davidman, A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C. S. Lewis, and Yet One More Spring: a Critical Study of Joy Davidman, will co-present on their works about Joy and her husband C.S. Lewis.  The event is free and open to the public on April 9, 2019 in Graham Chapel, Gaither Hall, Montreat College.Reception and Book signing to followSee More
Feb 8
William Roy Pipes posted a discussion

TWO NEW APPALACHIAN NOVELS

I have, just released two Appalachian Novels.OUT OF THE SHADOWS, begins deep in the Appalachian Mountains of in WNC. It is partly a true story about a young man who ran away from home at the age of fifteen. He meets another runaway, and they fall in love.A journey where he faced adversaries, but also success as he walked, hitchhiked, and made his way across the country.GONE LIKE A CANDLE IN THE WIND, is a story of three young people growing up in a farming community in the Appalachian…See More
Jan 28
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Main Show

The Main Show: a story-poem stage presentation(part of  Living Poem)See video of Act 1, Scene 1: The SettingPrologue Narrator:   Don’t listen, children, and do not hear.(A monster is coming and there’s no escapeWithin this story, and no good way to tell it, Except to gaze at the horror as at a flower,A disaster streaming off extremes it breedsEverywhere and in our…See More
Jan 26
Don Talley posted a discussion

Hollywood Pictures Inc in Fairview

In the 1920's it seemed the whole country was caught up in excitement about films and Hollywood.    Asheville and Western North Carolina were well aware of the hoopla of Hollywood.   In fact, Hollywood (or at least filmmaking) was already beginning to come to Western NC.I recently stumble across an article from the Jun 6 1926 issue of The Asheville Citizen Times which mentions that Hollywood Pictures Inc, was planning to film just south of Asheville, near Fairview.  But....was this really…See More
Jan 23

A swirl of regrets: Asheville author Heather Newton’s debut novel reveals a mountain family

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Martin, the prodigal son, keeps falling on his face, often because of drink.   Bertie, a sister-in-law, suffers curses—including a no-good son—because of a rash act she’d once committed.  Ivy, a sister, sees ghosts and is considered unfit to mother her children.

            Meet the Owenby family of Willoby County, western North Carolina, the stars of Asheville author Heather Newton’s debut novel, “Under the Mercy Trees.”  The clan of about ten, plus several friends, come into view just as they get the news that Leon, the oldest son, has gone missing.

            The stations of this mystery provide the bases for family drama and a crop of recollections.  The second station (number one was the search party) involves the cleaning of Leon’s hermitage, the old family home.

            “How your folks doing, Bertie?  I heard your daddy was ailing,” Eugenia Owenby asks James’ wife, Bertie, as she gets in her car to go to the cleaning.

            “Eugenia knew full well that what ailed Bertie’s daddy was the drink,” Newton writes in a chapter that belongs to Bertie’s point of view.  (Three other points of view alternate with hers over forty-one chapters.)

            “Your family is certainly blessed with longevity,” Eugenia comments.

            “What Eugenia meant was, weren’t Bertie’s mama and daddy ever going to die off so Bertie and James could move into their house?”

 

What about Martin

 

            The Owenbys are seriously ailing despite being populated by mostly good-hearted people and loved by some very stable ones—including Liza, Martin’s high school girlfriend; and Hodge, the EMS chief and Martin’s best friend.

            Here’s one of the curious things about the novel.  You can tilt your head one way and see it swirling around several characters; and tilt it another and feel that Martin is the main focus.  I don’t find it confusing, and therefore I find it a marvel.

            Newton opens her story with a Martin moment—an enigmatic scene lifted out of the ensuing context and made symbolic. 

            “August 1955,” the section is headed.  “That last night at Rendezvous Falls, the Ford Sunliner seemed to drive itself, the engine so powerful it felt as if some force were pulling them up the mountain.”

            Martin’s with Liza, and it’s clear that fate is involved in the drive.  Martin will exhibit, we learn later, a critical failure to act.  Is his plight more significant that Bertie’s, Ivy’s, or Leon’s?  I’m not sure, but I am sure that Newton has gotten me involved in her characters.

           It also seems that by gaining interest in the others, we sacrifice a piece of Martin’s story—the middle of his life.  He left high school adored by a great woman and expected to be a major playwright; he came back a jobless drunk.  He published several plays, and the only clue we get about his downfall is that his Southern style—“Faulknerian decrepitude,” as Allen Ginsberg had called it in New York—had gone out of fashion.

            Maybe it’s unfair to want the writer’s story.  I also wanted more moments of triumph.  “Under the Mercy Trees” is a haunted and somber tale, and Newton has done a brilliant job creating one character—Ivy—whose regular ghost sightings add depth.  But do not expect the constant punching wit of Dorothy Allison in “Bastard out of Carolina”” or Frank McCourt in “Angela’s Ashes.”

 

Magical trees and trucks

 

            The genesis of the “Mercy Trees” family drama is classic—a cruel father and a long-suffering mother.  The middle is fertile; and the various endings, emotional.

            The plot, after character introductions, moves quickly with dialogue and memories.  And at times, Newton is visionary.

            When Liza drives past a school which she’d entered as a newcomer at age twelve, she recalls befriending Martin, a soul mate.  She takes him to her secret place, reached by a deer path and through rhododendron thickets.

            “It was a sanctuary.  Soft grass the greenest she had ever seen carpeted the aisles,” Newton writes.  “All around, mature hardwoods grew bent in the shapes of chairs, up, then sideways, then up again, a dozen giant church ladies sitting down.”

            The place represents nature’s solace, always present in the mountains.  And the trees symbolize growth after trauma.

            Why HarperCollins chose to put a picture of a foot dipping into water on the cover instead of one of the bent trees, I don’t know.  It is the same exact foot, ripple, and reflection that are on the 2004 hardcover edition of Ron Rash’s “Saints at the River.”

            If you want to see a bent tree, go to Newtown’s website, www.heathernewton.net.

            Symbolism can be a ton of fun in “Mercy Trees.”  Leon’s truck, which Martin uses when he returns to the land of broken dreams, is a hunk of personality.

            “Leon’s boxy 1968 Chevy pickup truck sat forlornly under an old cherry tree…the driver’s door was secured with a coat hanger.”  The cab had a dead mouse smell from when Leon had trapped one in a Dr. Pepper bottle after it had crawled into the seat cushion.”

            Martin “took the steering wheel and gazed out on the hood, stretching for miles in front of him.”  He started the engine.  Leon had had a race car motor installed.  The radio was stuck on a Christian music station, and the knob was broken off.

            “The truck surged down the mountain, throwing gravel, with Martin hanging on tight.  On impulse, he yelled out the window a long ‘Yee-hah!’  He now had a vehicle, or maybe it had him.”

            More of that, please—to go with the genuine hauntedness.

 

BOOK REVIEWED

Under the Mercy Trees by Heather Newton (HarperCollins trade paper original, 2011, 348 pages, $13.99).

Views: 66

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

"Under the Mercy Trees" will be discussed at the next meeting of the Accent on Books reading group on Wednesday, March 9, at 3:00 PM.

RSS

© 2019   Created by Rob Neufeld.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service

UA-124288772-1