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Southern Literature

This month we feature great fiction titles by Southern writers. Take a look at what some of our staff have been reading. Printer Friendly Version


Prodigal Summer

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Kingsolver, Barbara(2000)
Prodigal Summer

Set on Zebulon Mountain in Appalachia, Kingsolver creates a tale about Deanna Wolfe, a wildlife expert, and a young hunter she meets on the trail. Woven into the story are other people living near the mountain, whose lives connect and reconnect. The rich, detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna which bombard the reader make the story come alive as the creatures of the forest and the farmlands, along with the humans, go about their lives. Countless lessons of biology are sprinkled throughout the book, as the lush summer slowly moves along, and as the characters come together, discovering Nature's lessons.

Reviewed by Susan H., Main Library

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Sullivan's Island: A Lowcountry Tale

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Frank, Dorothea Benton(2000)
Sullivan's Island: A Lowcountry Tale

Susan Hamilton Hayes, fortyish librarian at the Charleston County Library, returns home one afternoon to pick up some materials for a presentation and finds her husband in the arms of a twentysomething, "surgically improved", New Age bookstore manageress. From that moment, Susan embarks on a journey of self-discovery and reconciliation with some haunting memories of her childhood. The author weaves a captivating tale: Susan's coping with infidelity, her teenaged daughter's maturation, and the mysterious death of her father is juxtaposed with her diversions into the past, back to Sullivan's Island in 1963 where a wise Gullah housekeeper named Livvie is the stabilizing force in her life. Frank's wisecracking Susan will elicit guffaws from the reader, especially as the soon-to-be-divorced woman unaccustomed to the modern dating scene.

Reviewed by Susanne W., South County Regional

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Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All

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Gurganus, Allan(1989)
Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All

This is the sometimes hilarious, but more often sorrowful, oral memoir of Lucy Marsden, who, as a young girl, married an old veteran many years after his service in the Civil War. Lucy indeed tells all: exactly what it's like to be married to an old man who can not give up the past. "Captain" Marsden (a boy private promoted in the Southern tradition by old age) drinks, abuses and neglects his family to the extreme, and endlessly reminisces about the war. Epic in its proportions, impressive (if not entirely historically likely) in its characterizations, this book is an unforgettable reading experience.

Reviewed by Jim B., Main Library

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Hurston, Zora Neale(1937)
Their Eyes Were Watching God

In this classic treasure, Hurston captures the imagination and brings her characters to life with symbolism, imagery, and vernacular often found within the African-American culture in rural Southern communities. Inspired by a blossoming pear tree, beautiful, intelligent, and sensual 16 year-old Janie Crawford has dreams that take her beyond the small, rural west Florida community where she lives. Nanny, Janie`s grandmother, believes that Janie needs stability and is determined to make sure that Janie has a better life than she and Janie`s mother. Discontented with relationships filled with drama, tragedy, and murder, Janie decides to take control of her own destiny and sets out on a quest to make sense of her inner-self and to discover her true identity.

Reviewed by Retha H., Beatties Ford Road Branch

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The Ballad of Frankie Silver

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McCrumb, Sharyn(1998)
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The Ballad of Frankie Silver

This is a tale told by a master storyteller of two people convicted of murder. One set in the present, the other in the Morganton area during the 1830`s. Spencer Arrowood, the sheriff of Hamelin, Tennessee is agonizing over the guilty verdict of Fate Harkryder and his death sentence for the murder and torture of two hikers. The parallel story that legends are made of is that of Frankie Silver, who killed and dismembered her husband more than one hundred and fifty years earlier. She was the first woman hanged in North Carolina. Lots of North Carolina history, genealogy, 1800`s law and great scenery. This book will entertain both native North Carolinians and newcomers.

Reviewed by Thea J., South County Regional

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CHAPEL HILL – In 40 years of off-and-on researching Frankie Silver, the North Carolina mountain woman hanged in 1833 for chopping up her abusive husband, an author has discovered Appalachia’s most famous ax murderer was not the first woman executed in the state. "Nor was she the first white woman to be hanged here, and she wasn’t even the first woman hanged in Burke County, part of which now is Mitchell County," said Perry Deane Young, a Vietnam War correspondent who wrote "The Untold Story of Frankie Silver," just published by Down Home Press. "At least nine North Carolina women, whites and blacks, were hanged or burned at the stake before she was, and we can never know the exact number because few records exist. At least 15 women were executed prior to 1910 when the state took over capital punishment." Also contrary to common belief, Frankie and her husband Charles were not the subjects of the "Ballad of Frankie and Johnny,"
-Carol, New Orleans, Louisiana

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The Slow Way Back

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Goldman, Judy(1999)
The Slow Way Back

Charlotte, NC and Rock Hill, SC provide a backdrop for the story of Thea and three generations of her southern Jewish family. Thea is given eight letters from her grandmother to her grandmother's sister around the time of her parent's wedding. The letters are in Yiddish, so Thea has them translated, hoping to find the answers to the many questions she has about her family. The letters come back to her one at a time, allowing Thea a glimpse into her grandparents' lives, as well as a chance to examine her own life, her inability to have children, and her relationship with her sister, and to gain a deeper understanding of her parents as individuals. It's an engaging story, almost poetic in its descriptions. The switches between the past and present are easy to follow and keep the reader interested in the story.

Reviewed by Karen K., Morrison Regional

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Dreams of Sleep

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Humphreys, Josephine(1985)
Dreams of Sleep

Alice Reese is a woman who no longer knows where she stands in her marriage. Her gynecologist husband is having an affair with his receptionist, Claire. Although Alice is fascinated by Claire`s appeal, she has also become numb to the daily events and people in her life, especially her two young daughters. Alice moves through her days in a fog, too paralyzed to take any chances in her life or to confront her philandering, self-righteous husband. Marcella, Alice`s mother-in-law, who knows about the affair and sees Alice withdrawing into her shell, introduces her to seventeen-year-old babysitter Iris Moon. Through her worldliness and her own need to be needed, Iris shows Alice how to break free from her fear. Humphreys does an excellent job of juxtaposing the condition of the Reese`s waning yet possibly salvagable marriage with the slow but elegant decay of historic Charleston.

Reviewed by Julia S., University City Regional

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To Dance With the White Dog

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Kay, Terry(1990)
To Dance With the White Dog

Set in Georgia in the late 50’s or early 60’s, this novel gives a nostalgic look at life in the rural south. Sam Peek’s wife of 57 years has died of a sudden heart attack. Although Sam is 81, he is able to continue to live at home since two of his daughters live nearby and they check on him constantly. When Sam adopts a large white dog, a “ghost dog,” that only Sam can see, the family becomes concerned about his mental health. This delightfully simple story stirs the emotions as few books can and offers a heart-warming look at human nature and changing family relationships as parents age. A delightful read and one not to be missed.

Reviewed by Gloria J., North County Regional

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Absalom, Absalom!

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Faulkner, William(1936)
Absalom, Absalom!

`Absalom, Absalom!` documents the disintegration of an aristocratic southern family. Thomas Sutpen arrives in Jefferson, Mississippi in 1833 with nothing but a grand design to wrest from the wilderness an empire. Sutpen purchases land in Yoknapatawpha County, and sets his sights on founding a Dynasty. He almost succeeds, but blind ambition and past sins are his undoing. The Civil War only hastens his downfall. The story is narrated from several different perspectives and unfolds as the remembrances and conjectures of characters fifty years after principal events. In 1909, Sutpen’s sister-in-law relates the basic facts of the story to Quentin Compson, who also appears in The `Sound and the Fury.` Later, Quentin and his Harvard roommate piece together the remaining details. Hailed as one of Faulkner’s greatest achievements, this is a challenging but rewarding read.

Reviewed by Bryon C., North County Regional

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Raney

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Edgerton, Clyde(1985)
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Raney

Raney, a humorous novel by North Carolina author, Clyde Edgerton, relays Raney Bell Shepherd’s personal account of her tumultuous first two years as a rural, ultra-conservative southern bride, to Charles Shepherd, a flaming liberal whose best friend is black. Though they make beautiful music together (literally), the newlyweds work to harmonize their discordant viewpoints and become one, even as Raney’s staunch Baptist background threatens to blow them apart. An entertaining and thought-provoking novel in which the characters squarely deal with change and the issues at hand.

Reviewed by Deborah O., Main Library

Author InterviewRead the Author Interview with Clyde Edgerton

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Carolina Moon

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McCorkle, Jill(1996)
Carolina Moon

In the small town of Fulton, North Carolina, everyone knows everyone else's business. This is certainly true in Jill McCorkle's Carolina Moon, where the characters' lives are intricately intertwined. A sampling of the off the wall characters that are present in this novel include the owner of the town "smoke-out clinic", a newly divorced therapist, a young mother and her husband (who appears to be missing), and a handyman. An unsolved murder mystery and a series of letters written to a dead lover will fascinate readers until the surprising end. Jill McCorkle masterfully reveals the inner workings of each character and includes enough joy, sorrow, intrigue, and mystery to satisfy any reader.

Reviewed by Amy R., University City Regional

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Clover

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Sanders, Dori(1990)
Clover

South Carolina author, Dori Sanders, tells this charming narrative through the eyes of precocious ten-year-old Clover, whose father is killed in a tragic car accident following his wedding to a northern white woman. The grief-sticken new step-mom awkwardly embraces a reluctant Clover as her daughter, even as she determinedly seeks to adjust culturally and emotionally to Clover's hostile relatives and colorful neighbors, black and white, in their rural South Carolina peach farm community. Though Clover sometimes exhibits wisdom too far beyond her ten years, the book is enjoyable and insightful for both teens and adults.

Reviewed by Deborah O., Main Library

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Nowhere Else on Earth

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Humphreys, Josephine(2000)
Nowhere Else on Earth

Nowhere Else On Earth is a work of fiction but in the hands of Josephine Humphreys this book comes to life. It tells the story of North Carolina's most neglected citizens ... the Lumbee Indians of Robeson County during the waning years of the Civil War. Using meticulous historical research, Humphreys weaves a richly textured tapestry, each thread entwining to present a many-faceted tale. This is a saga of the strength of family, the search for honor and justice, the pride of a people overlooked and abused. It's the story of a people torn between the promises of the Union and the desperation of the Confederacy, but belonging to neither. Finally, this is the love story of a Lumbee girl and her outlaw/hero lover. Nowhere Else On Earth is a remarkable accomplishment by a skilled writer.

Reviewed by Susan C., Independence Regional

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A Lesson Before Dying

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Gaines, Ernest J.(1993)
A Lesson Before Dying

Set in rural Louisiana during the late 1940’s, Jefferson, a barely literate twenty-year-old black man, is wrongly sentenced to death for the murder of a white man. In a futile attempt to spare his life, his defense lawyer claims that he is not intelligent enough to be regarded as human. Eventually, his extended family convinces Grant Wiggins, the university-educated teacher of their parish, to help Jefferson realize his humanity and self-worth during his final days. Major social issues such as race, the death penalty, and religion are central to this powerful tale of human morality. This title is a must read for anyone who enjoys literature with an important social message.

Reviewed by LaJuan P., University City Regional

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One Foot in Eden

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Rash, Ron(2002)
One Foot in Eden

Holland Winchester vanished and the sheriff thinks he knows why. But he can`t assemble all the puzzle pieces. The mystery unfolds in the words of several narrators, each one revealing only what he or she has experienced personally, their stories expanding the account until the reader understands exactly what occurred, and more importantly why. Set in the mountains on the line between western North and South Carolina, the isolated setting is central to the story, the environment there shaped each storyteller`s decisions. Ron Rash has created a true tragedy, where the behavior of each character is logical and their resultant suffering is inevitable. I can`t wait for his next book.

Reviewed by Cherie L., Myers Park Branch

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When the Finch Rises

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Riggs, Jack(2003)
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When the Finch Rises

Raybert Williams is trying to grow up in Ellenton, a small mill town in North Carolina. His life is forever changed the day President Kennedy is assassinated. On that pivotal day Palmer Conroy makes his first appearance in Raybert’s class. Immediately the two become best friends. There is something magical about Palmer; he is somehow touched by the gods, and as is always the case with those so touched, he is also cursed. Growing up is never easy and for these two, who both have families visited by tragedy, it is especially tough. Yes, there is tragedy here, there are also moments of magic and great humor. Riggs has a gift for storytelling that brings truth to the fore and shows the mythical in the everyday. Don’t miss this gem!

Reviewed by Mark B., Main Library

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Captain Saturday

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Inman, Robert(2002)
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Captain Saturday

Will Baggett is living the high life. As the beloved weatherman in Raleigh, he cannot go anywhere without fans calling out to him. His beautiful wife is a successful real estate broker, and his son is in medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But when Will is unexpectedly fired from his job followed by a couple of arrests, things start to unravel fast. Will must reinvent himself by examining his past if he hopes to have a future. Filled with fun-loving, if not a little quirky, characters, this book will leave you wanting more.

Reviewed by Cassandra H., Mint Hill Branch

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Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven

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Flagg, Fannie(2006)
Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven

Author Fannie Flagg takes us back to Elmwood Springs, Missouri and its band of Southern charmers in her new book, Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven. When the town’s beloved Mrs. Elner Shimfissle falls out of her fig tree, she goes for a wild ride to the afterlife and back and sends her friends and family on a trip down memory lane. Join Elner’s nervous niece Norma, Tot the hairdresser, neighbor Dorothy and a host of others as they pay tribute to this wonderful woman and show how one person can change a town. This warm-hearted novel filled with Southern charm and nostalgia will have you, along with everyone in Elmwood Springs, contemplating your purpose in life.

Reviewed by Sherry J., Sugar Creek Branch

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Firefly Cloak

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Reynolds, Sheri(2006)
Firefly Cloak

Tessa Lee remembers the night she and her brother Travis were left in the campground by their mother. She remembers the two room tent with its mosquitoes and the firefly robe her mother left as a blanket. She always thought her mother was lost to her until she found out she was only two hours down the road working on a local boardwalk. But everything is different now. Tessa Lee is a teenager and her brother Travis, well, his life is different, too. Should she try to see her mother or try to go on without her? If only she could go back in time and change everything. Wonderfully descriptive, detailed and unique, Reynold’s new novel shines like a firefly in the world of fiction.

Reviewed by Courtney A., South County Regional

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Wise Blood

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O'Connor, Flannery(1952)
Wise Blood

`Listen here, I’m going to preach a new church – the church of truth without Jesus Christ Crucified. It won’t cost you nothing to join my church. It’s not started yet but it’s going to be.` With that, Hazel Motes, a young, displaced WWII vet embarks on an odyssey of denial of his Christian roots while playing the role of itinerant-preacher-in-search-of-followers in the 1940’s South. His `rat-colored` Essex automobile becomes his pulpit and home as he maneuvers around other displaced characters in the novel such as sham preacher Asa Hawks and his jailbait daughter, Sabbath. Wise Blood is a dark, gritty snapshot of salvation-through-suffering. O’Connor is the queen of the Southern Grotesque Gothic Novel. Amen.

Reviewed by Susanne W., South County Regional

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Hoo-EEEE! One of the great books. So mean and funny all at once it makes your teeth ache.
-Amanda, Montreat, NC

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The Woodsman’s Daughter

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Rubio, Gwyn Hyman(2005)
The Woodsman’s Daughter

Gwyn Hyman Rubio’s second novel, The Woodsman’s Daughter, tells the story of a rural post-Civil War Georgia family. The novel centers on this unhappy household which includes an alcoholic father, a disinterested mother, fifteen-year old Dalia and her younger blind sister Nellie Ann. Despite her struggle to survive which is often detoured by hasty decisions and destructive relationships, Dalia emerges to find both a purpose and a family of her own. Rubio displays Southern gothic storytelling at its best with complex and unforgettable characters, emotional plot twists, and lessons of love and loss. Rubio’s first novel, Icy Sparks, not only became a bestseller winning numerous awards but was named an Oprah Book Club selection in 2001.

Reviewed by Kim W., University City Regional

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Cypress Grove

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Sallis, James(2003)
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Cypress Grove

Turner is a man seeking peace and a little private time to lick his wounds. After the horrors of his time as a policeman in Memphis and then as an inmate, he needs to lose himself in the middle of nowhere for a while. The little cabin he finds for rent outside Cypress Grove seems the perfect place. After all, there is no one else around except for Nathan, a fellow loaner perfectly content to sit quietly on the porch sipping bourbon while listening to the crickets. Well, it’s perfect for a while, but the world always finds such a man, and Turner is no different. Still, this small Southern town has its own ways of healing the wounded.

Reviewed by Mark B., Main Library

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Cold Sassy Tree

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Burns, Olive Ann(1984)
Cold Sassy Tree

It’s July 1906 in the small town of Cold Sassy, Georgia. Will Tweedy, a fourteen-year-old sometime prankster finds that he and his family must weather a tumultuous storm of local gossip when Grandpa Rucker Blakeslee, fifty-nine years old and a widower of almost 3 weeks, weds Miss Love Simpson, a thirtyish milliner and a “Yankee”. The novel is a coming-of-age story about Will – much like Tarkington’s Penrod and Twain’s Tom Sawyer. It is also a story of the coming of change to Cold Sassy and most of its citizens: technology and modernization are on the horizon. Georgian Burns borrowed significantly from her own family’s history to fuel her novel, which also contains an accurate rendering of the small town southern dialect.

Reviewed by Susanne W., South County Regional

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Where the Woodbine Twines

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Austin, Sherry(2006)
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Where the Woodbine Twines

A pending divorce sends Nan and John to their South Carolina beach house, where Nan gathers belongings after the home’s sale. While there, Nan spies a woman who resembles a long-lost childhood friend. Thus begins Nan’s reminiscences of Catherine Wiley, a mysterious, troubled child who harbored a terrible secret. Nan and her mother, Wanda, tried to socialize the grim Catherine, abandoned by her parents to the care of ailing, aging grandparents. Then, a visit to Myrtle Beach in that summer of 1957 turned tragic when a beachside circus tent went up in flames and Catherine disappeared freakishly during a storm – or did she? Sherry Austin has created a masterful Southern Gothic that leaves an otherworldly portal slightly ajar – leading to “where the woodbine twines.”

Reviewed by Susanne W., South County Regional

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A wonderful read! A wonderfully told story that stays with you even after the last page.
-Sable, Lumberton, NC

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The Days Between the Years

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Austin, Sherry(2007)
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The Days Between the Years

Trixie Goforth, an elderly North Carolina widow, is making preparations for the coming Christmas holidays, while spending time with two documentary filmmakers who are making The Days Between the Years – about the women at home during World War II. Amid all of this, she finds herself dodging the threat of being placed in a retirement home by her children, who worry about her memory lapses and driving escapades. Then, an unexpected medical diagnosis and a desire to visit an old friend send Trixie on the road to "epiphany" – juxtaposing a forbidden automobile trip with reminiscences of her childhood years with great aunt Ollie Pearl. Her innocent crush on a hobo at age eleven makes an indelible impression and comes full circle at book’s end. Humorous, tender, and uplifting.

Reviewed by Susanne W., South County Regional

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Down River

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Hart, John(2007)
Down River

The Yadkin River separates Davidson from Rowan County. It also flows through Adam Chase. This book, Hart’s second mystery thriller set in Salisbury, NC proves his talent is real and rooted in North Carolina’s piedmont region. Chase returns to town after a five-year absence at the behest of an old friend only to find the same old troubles waiting for him and the friend gone. He had been found innocent of a murder but many still believe him guilty and therein lay his troubles. As both family and most friends turned their backs on Adam, he left for New York. His return is painful for everyone involved, but unfinished business has a way of forcing itself to the forefront. Hart is Southern gothic at its best.

Reviewed by Mark B., Main Library

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Magic Time

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Marlette, Doug(2006)
Magic Time

A terrorist attack on the Institute of Modern Art in New York City triggers memories for a New York City newspaper columnist of a church bombing during the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Carter Ransom struggles to put both of these events into perspective as the KKK`s Grand Imperial Wizard is retried for the church bombing. The events from the past are told through a series of flashbacks, but Ransom family secrets from the past are about to come to light. Was there a cover-up involving Carter’s father in the first trial? <I>Magic Tim</I>e will draw you in with two fascinating stories of the past and present. It may also give you new enlightenments on life during the civil rights era.

Reviewed by Cassandra H., Mint Hill Branch

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Sweetgrass

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Monroe, Mary Alice(2005)
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Sweetgrass

When one reads Sweetgrass, one can almost hear the voice of Gerald O’Hara from that “other” Southern novel explaining to daughter Katie Scarlett that acreage is the only thing worth working, fighting, and dying for – because it’s the only thing that lasts. The Blakely family has occupied historical “Sweetgrass” in the low country of South Carolina since 1769. Unfortunately, unscrupulous developers and tax collectors are breathing down the necks of Preston and Mary June Blakely. Moreover, the instigator of this unpleasantness is Preston’s sister, Adele. Then, Preston has a stroke. Monroe weaves a tale of a dysfunctional family reeling from the effects of loss, isolation, dishonesty and communication breakdown. Nevertheless, Sweetgrass tugs at the heartstrings and screams, “Beach Read!” Lush, breezy.

Reviewed by Susanne W., South County Regional

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Beach Music

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Conroy, Pat(1995)
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Beach Music

Few writers grasp the human soul’s depth like Conroy. Pat Conroy’s blood is South Carolina Low County saltwater and his readers can smell and taste it. Jack McCall flees Charleston with his daughter for Rome to escape the pain of his wife’s suicide. Escape isn’t possible, even in the beauty of Rome. Jack’s birth family’s problems return him to the land that inhabits his soul. Humor and tragedy mesh beautifully here as they often do in life. Jack’s birth family, his wife and child, and the family of his in-laws, are the center of this novel. Family and all that word can mean is his art’s core. Families magnificently and magically Southern exude the smells of ocean and marsh in Conroy’s novels.

Reviewed by Mark B., Main Library

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Lords of Discipline

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Conroy, Pat(1980)
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Lords of Discipline

In 1966 Charleston`s Carolina Military Institute admits the first black cadet. Will McLean is asked to watch for any trouble that may ensue. Will would rather play basketball and hone his craft as a writer. Being a man of honor and a senior cadet leaves him no choice but to take on the task. Will discovers problems much deeper than he ever expected. Don`t avoid this masterful novel thinking that it`s a military book; it is much more than that. Honor, honesty, integrity, justice and the struggle for these ideals are the heart of Conroy`s novel. He uses the milieu of a Southern military academy in 1966 to drive home themes perfectly suited to such a setting. The military academy is the canvas, not the painting.

Reviewed by Mark B., Main Library

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The Fixer Upper

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Andrews, Mary Kay(2009)
The Fixer Upper

Dempsey Jo Killebrew, a naïve Washington lobbyist, was eager to make a name for herself and impress her boss, but now she’s caught in the middle of a major political scandal. After being fired with no hope of finding a new job, Dempsey agrees to her father’s offer to move to Guthrie, Georgia, and refurbish the old family home he has recently inherited. Dempsey’s life is turned upside down in this small town where everybody knows her business before she even gets there. The Fixer Upper is filled with all the quirky southern characters and humor one expect from Mary Kay Andrews. You will be pulling for Dempsey to fix her life while she’s fixing up the house.

Reviewed by Cassandra H., Mint Hill Branch

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Great read for those who need a break from their DYI repairs and dysfunctional familes. A real hoot of a read for those who like it when a corrupt politician gets his comeuppance.
-Shelia, Charlotte, NC

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The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square

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Lippi, Rosina(2008)
The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square

John Dodge, an itinerant entrepreneur, buys Scrivener’s, a collectible pen store in Lambert Square in fictional Lamb’s Corner, South Carolina. We learn about caring, quirky townspeople through character sketches from Bob Lee Cowpers, who sold Scrivener’s to John Dodge. Julia Darrow, a young widow, owns Cocoon, a luxury linens and lingerie store. Julia and her employees wear their designer pajamas daily. Julia and John Dodge are attracted to each other, but are opposites. Dodge likes to improve a business and move from town to town. Darrow likes to isolate herself. Lippi, who also writes historical novels as Sara Donati, creates a funny, romantic, character-driven novel which makes the perfect beach read.

Reviewed by Megan M., Main Library

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OMG I loved this book! Well written and love how the characters are developed.
-Nel, Charlotte, NC

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The Help

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Stockett, Kathryn(2009)
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The Help

This poignant story of the South in the 50s and 60s is told in the voice of three women in Jackson, Mississippi. It portrays the distant but symbiotic relationships between blacks and whites; “the line” that must not be crossed. These women resolve to defy the convention. One lacks the socially requisite “ring on her finger”. One mourns the terrible loss of her son. One speaks too honestly “outside her place” and loses jobs for this temerity. These women grow to trust each other and achieve a goal “unthinkable”. Along the way, they deal with fear, reprisals, lies, vindictiveness, and the indignities of double standards. This brave first novel is beautifully written about a time many people still recall.

Reviewed by Sheila C., Morrison Regional

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South of Broad

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Conroy, Pat(2009)
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South of Broad

Leo King has led a troubled life since he found his older brother dead after committing suicide. On June 19, 1969 people who will mold the rest of his life make their entrance into his world. While these people are very different from one another the bonds they form during their senior year in high school become the threads that will be woven together to form their adult lives. The author brings the beauty of Charleston and the low country of South Carolina to life as the city itself becomes a character in this tale. The power of love and friendship is just one of the many themes of this lyrical novel, the author's first in fourteen years. Don’t miss Conroy’s latest gem.

Reviewed by Mark B., Main Library

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Tied to the Tracks

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Lippi, Rosina(2006)
Tied to the Tracks

John Grant, 36, new head of the Ogilvie College Department of English, has come home to fictional Ogilvie, Georgia to settle down. He plans to marry Caroline Rose, a fellow professor, who is from a prominent Ogilvie family as is John Grant. Zula Bragg, a legendary Ogilvie College English professor, complicates Grant’s life when she insists on hiring Tied to the Tracks film company from Hoboken, NJ to do a documentary commemorating her fifty years of teaching. The film company is run by Angeline Mangiamele, John Grant’s ex-girlfriend. Lippi creates humorous characters who explore differences in culture and the consequences of unrequited love. The story has a sassy southern flavor reminiscent of Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café.

Reviewed by Megan M., Main Library

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The Lost  Hours

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White, Karen(2009)
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The Lost Hours

Former champion equestrian Piper Mills helped her grandfather bury a box in their backyard when she was twelve. After her grandparents’ deaths, she digs it up and finds torn scrapbook pages, a necklace, and a startling newspaper article from 1939, suggesting a mystery in her grandmother Annabelle’s past. Piper is drawn to the horse farm of Annabelle’s childhood friend, where she not only learns about the grandmother she never took the time to know, but also begins to heal from the riding accident that left her emotionally and physically scarred six years earlier. With a cast of intriguing characters, gripping subplots, and Southern charm, Karen White’s The Lost Hours is a moving story of relationships and forgiveness.

Reviewed by Sandra S., North County Regional

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The Sweet By and By

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Johnson, Todd(2009)
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The Sweet By and By

Todd Johnson, who grew up in Charlotte, presents a moving and thought-provoking portrait of life among a small group of NC nursing home residents, their families, and caregivers. Johnson's novel is character-driven and the voices of five strong Southern women dominate the structure and tone - most notably, residents Margaret and Bernice and their devoted caregiver, Lorraine. Because the nursing home environment tends to be stagnant, Johnson uses holidays to mark the passage of time. It's during a Fourth of July barbecue that Bernice's inseparable companion, a stuffed monkey named Mister Benny, meets an untimely end and is one of the many poignant moments in the novel. Despite the setting, this book is a celebration of life and a testament to the power of friendship.

Reviewed by Susanne W., South County Regional

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A Quiet Belief in Angels

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Ellory, R. J.(2009)
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A Quiet Belief in Angels

R. J. Ellory’s A Quiet Belief in Angels is simply unforgettable. The characters are vividly drawn from the red clay of rural 1950’s Georgia. Joseph Vaughan is on the cusp of adolescence, a star pupil and in the midst of a series of brutal murders of young girls. Joseph feels responsible for the protection of his community and even forms a band of friends as “guardians.” Still, the murders continue for 10 years, the brutality creating a stifling atmosphere of fear. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief when a neighbor is found hanging in his barn with evidence nearby, but Joseph’s story is not nearly over. Ellory’s melodic voice creates a haunting journey of brilliant reading.

Reviewed by Susan C., Independence Regional

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The Second Coming: a Novel

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Percy, Walker(1980)
The Second Coming: a Novel

Will Barrett`s search for God (or at least an end to his depression) appears to be bound for suicide -- until he meets Allison, a mental institution escapee. This was your reviewer`s introduction to the works of Walker Percy -- an all-time favorite among those of any writer. There is wonderful gentle humor and delightful satire here, as well as intense sadness, ominous foreboding and deep tragedy: in a word, classic Southern literature. The characters are lovable, twisted and flawed -- perfectly real and inspiring. So immersed in their story becomes the reader that he hates to put it down, let alone finish it.

Reviewed by Jim B., Main Library

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The Girl Who Chased the Moon: a novel

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Allen, Sarah Addison(2010)
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The Girl Who Chased the Moon: a novel

You’ve read this before – so you think. A young girl arrives in the small town where her mother grew up and discovers that the residents’ memories of mom are a far cry from her own memories. But, rest assured, that’s where your déjà vu ends. Welcome to Mullaby, North Carolina – where Emily Benedict, the young girl, meets her over-eight-feet-tall grandfather. She sleeps in mom’s old bedroom, where the wallpaper changes periodically and without warning. As Emily meets various Mullabyites and asks questions about her mother, Addison’s “Southern-fried magical realism” shifts into high gear as the secret behind the mysterious Mullaby lights is gradually revealed. There’s plenty of baking and barbecue in this one, so get your sweet iced tea ready. Oddly delicious!

Reviewed by Susanne W., South County Regional

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Literary Trails of the North Carolina Piedmont:  a Guidebook

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Eubanks, Georgann(2010)
Literary Trails of the North Carolina Piedmont: a Guidebook

Did you know that humor writer David Sedaris once washed dishes at the Carolina Coffee Shop on East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill? Or that the movie version of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple was filmed on location in several areas in and around Marshville and Wadesboro? And that Pulitzer winner John Hersey was married at the Duke Mansion in Charlotte? These are just a few fascinating facts found in this unique literary guide which explores the many locales in North Carolina’s Piedmont area which have inspired writers, both North Carolina native authors as well as visiting authors from other states and countries. The guide includes detailed descriptions of locations and maps as well as photographs that drivers, walkers and armchair travelers will appreciate.

Reviewed by Kim W., University City Regional

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Burning Bright: Stories

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Rash, Ron(2010)
Burning Bright: Stories

"All you can do is pick up your guitar and play," Devon reminds himself as he finishes another 2:00 a.m. weekend gig at The Last Chance roadhouse somewhere in the Western Carolina Mountains. A forty-year old ex-teacher just trying to survive in a difficult place during difficult times, Devon is like so many of the struggling and haunting characters which emerge from Ron Rash's collection of short stories. These twelve stories are set in various Appalachia landscapes and range from the Civil War era to present day. Rash seamlessly connects time and place with his unique lyrical prose, capturing the universality of the human condition. Like Devon and his guitar, we are glad that Rash continues to put pen to paper and write.

Reviewed by Kim W., University City Regional

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The House on Tradd Street

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White, Karen(2008)
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The House on Tradd Street

Charleston, SC is a charming town brimming with magnificent historic homes, gardens and of course ghosts. Melanie Middleton, who unfortunately can see ghosts, has lived in Charleston her whole life and while she loves to sell historic homes she has no desire to own one. So when she inherits the Vanderhorst house on Tradd Street she is not excited. This house is inhabited by two ghosts, one nice and one mean. Along with the ghosts comes a mystery and one that bestselling author Jack Trenholm is more than happy to help solve. Jack and Melanie will discover some very important things about the house, family and each other in this wonderful novel.

Reviewed by Angela A., Cornelius Branch

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Sweeping Up Glass

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Wall, Carolyn(2009)
Sweeping Up Glass

Olivia Harker Cross wonders who’s killing the silver-faced wolves that inhabit Big Foley Mountain in 1930’s Kentucky. She is raising her grandson, Will’m, and providing shelter to mother Ida, an embittered woman whose mental health is spiraling downward. A powerful family on the mountain that has harassed the Harkers for decades is behind some evil doings that frighten the townsfolk into a submissive silence. Within that silence is a secret linking Olivia’s late father and the predatory Phelps family. As Olivia closes in on the killer of her wolves, the secret begins to unravel – endangering Olivia and those whom she loves. Wall’s lyrical prose evokes Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, and Eudora Welty amid stomach-churning suspense.

Reviewed by Susanne W., South County Regional

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The Peach Keeper

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Allen, Sarah Addison(2011)
The Peach Keeper

Life in Walls of Water, North Carolina is about to change with the renovation of the Blue Ridge Madam. Suddenly the past and present collide when the old peach tree is dug up and a skeleton is uncovered. Tucker Devlin was killed in 1936. But who murdered him? Paxton Osgood is terrified the scandal will ruin the Women's Society Club gala. And Willa Jackson begins to unearth the truth about her family and herself. Love seeps into their intertwined lives as the women discover what happened. Sarah Addison Allen delivers a beautifully crafted novel about the strength of friendship and discovering your true identity. The Peach Keeper is a wonderful read with charismatic characters and a mysterious undertone that will keep you entranced.

Reviewed by Carrie M., Myers Park Branch

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The Girl on Legare Street

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White, Karen(2009)
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The Girl on Legare Street

Melanie was just getting settled into her spirit free home and relationship with Jack when her world is turned upside down again. Her mother, Ginnette, appears after abandoning Melanie and her father 30 years earlier. Ginnette wishes to purchase the old family home on Legare Street. She believes it is time for Melanie and herself to take on the family ghosts. Melanie has no desire to help her mother, but she must in order to save what is left of her family. Will Jack, Ginnette and Melanie be able to solve the puzzle and make peace with the ghosts?

Reviewed by Angela A., Cornelius Branch

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Savannah Breeze

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Andrews, Mary Kay(2006)
Savannah Breeze

After three divorces, BeBe Loudermilk isn't looking for another man. But then she meets Ryan Edward Millbanks III, or Reddy. He's irresistible and charming. And a thief! Reddy takes everything from BeBe! She suddenly loses her money, house, rental properties, and even family heirlooms. Forced to close her Savannah restaurant, BeBe’s only hope is the Breeze Inn on Tybee Island. In order to make a living again, BeBe and the current manager, Harry, remodel it and then open for business. But BeBe still wants justice. Will she find Reddy and make him pay for ruining her life? Mary Kay Andrews's sequel to Savannah Blues is a hilarious, romantic romp about a woman who discovers her true self by losing everything.

Reviewed by Carrie M., Myers Park Branch

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This book makes you want to drive down to SC or the body of water with sand! Nuff said :)
-Nel, Charlotte, NC

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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

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Franklin, Tom(2010)
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

The lives of two men are intertwined, though neither knows the connection they share. Larry Ott, or “Scary Larry” as the townspeople call him, lives a simple life. Larry is ostracized by locals because of a belief that years ago he murdered a girl. Silas Jones, a boyhood friend of Larry’s who moved away from the area in their youth, returns as the local constable. When another girl goes missing, Larry is the prime suspect even though he himself becomes a victim. As Larry lies hospitalized and Silas investigates the crime, hidden facts and veracity supplant local speculation. In this deftly built story of life in rural Mississippi, the author hints at what will eventually be revealed, skillfully building interest. Rich in details and descriptions, imagery abounds.

Reviewed by Linda O., University City Regional

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Velva Jean Learns to Fly

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Niven, Jennifer(2011)
Velva Jean Learns to Fly

“Ever since I was a little girl, I knew that singing at the Grand Ole Opry was my life’s dream.” After reading this opening line from the sequel to “Velva Jean Learns to Drive,” you’ll ride along in the old yellow truck, down that bumpy mountain road in Alluvial, North Carolina, to the place where dreams surely do come true. Or do they? Maybe there are bigger dreams awaiting Velva Jean Hart as she sets out to find her truest self in the magical city of Nashville, Tennessee. This is a story that draws you in from the first line and never lets you go. It is a fictional story packed full of historical facts that will leave you awed, inspired, and praying that a little bit of Velva Jean has been planted somewhere deep down inside.

Reviewed by Cynthia M., ImaginOn

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The Ranger

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Atkins, Ace(2011)
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The Ranger

Don’t miss out on the action with this first book in the Quinn Colson series. Quinn returns to his home town after six years to attend the funeral of his uncle and town sheriff, Hampton Beckett. Although the official cause of his uncle’s death is suicide, Quinn is not convinced it isn’t murder. Although he is only home for a short visit from his career as an Army ranger, Quinn packs a lot into his stay. He has to defend the land he inherited from his uncle, cross paths with his old flame, endure his Mother, detect questionable real estate practices, ferret out drug operations, and more! Action, romance, and crime are all put together in an easy to read, fast paced novel of a small town, Mississippi style.

Reviewed by Linda O., University City Regional

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One Second After

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Forstchen, William R.(2009)
One Second After

One second after the EMP goes off, the entire American continent is technologically back to the 1800`s, before electricity and flush toilets. As Newt Gingrich explains in the foreword, an Electro Magnetic Pulse is caused by a nuclear device going off in the atmosphere. It immediately kills all computer chips and electric devices. Nothing electric works, cars stop and planes fall out of the sky. John Matherson figures out what happened due to his military background and organizes his small town on Black Mountain, NC allowing them to survive better than most. It`s truly a story of survival and overcoming odds, but it`s brutal and frighteningly real at the same time.

Reviewed by Thea J., South County Regional

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The Bridge

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Marlette, Doug(2001)
The Bridge

Pick Cantrell was fired from his high paying newspaper job in New York City. This forces him to move his family to the small town in North Carolina where he grew up. Pick and his wife purchase an old rundown mansion and as the renovations begin, so do the drop-ins by family members who are anxious to see the “uppity” Pick get what’s coming to him. Chief among them is Mama Lucy, Pick’s grandmother, with whom he has always had a difficult relationship. Renovations bring revelations, including Mama Lucy’s involvement in one of the textile strikes during The Great Depression. This quintessential Southern story shows you can go home again, it just is not always easy.

Reviewed by Gina d., Main Library

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Freeman

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Pitts, Leonard Jr.(2012)
Freeman

After the Civil War ends, Sam, a former escaped-slave, decides to make the perilous journey back into the South to try to find his wife Tilda. Sam hasn’t seen Tilda in over fifteen years following the death of their son. Meanwhile, Tilda is being forced to go along with her former master while he tries to find a new home away from “Yankee domination.” And in Buford, Mississippi Prudence Kent, a white abolitionist from Boston, is trying to set up a school for the newly freed blacks. All three will face incredible hardships as they each try to figure out what life will be like now that slavery is over. This is an unforgettable novel about the tumultuous times in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Reviewed by Jessica B., Mint Hill Branch

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Heading Out to Wonderful

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Goolrick, Robert(2012)
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Heading Out to Wonderful

Charlie Beale arrives in Brownsburg, Virginia in the summer of 1948 carrying a suitcase full of butcher knives and another one full of money. He finds work with local butcher Will Haislett and befriends the Haislett’s young son, Sam. The townsfolk are charmed by Charlie’s quiet demeanor and butchering talents despite his aura of mystery. Then, Sylvan Glass, beautiful teenage wife of the town’s richest but least-liked citizen, visits the butcher shop and ignites a fiery passion in Charlie who is now on a path of self-destruction. Over time, their torrid affair is revealed and the events that follow almost destroy the town. Goolrick’s cautionary tale is timeless and offers a jaw dropping ending.

Reviewed by Susanne W., Steele Creek Branch

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Guests on Earth

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Smith, Lee(10/2013)
Guests on Earth

Lee Smith`s latest novel is told through the eyes of Evalina Toussaint. As a young child Evalina finds herself at Highlands Mental Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina after a traumatic reaction to her Mother`s death. The famous and wealthy seek refuge and cures from their mental anguishes at Highlands. Evalina pulls the reader into her life and the lives and quirky personalities of the other residents as they struggle to hang onto normalcy. She becomes friends with Zelda Fitzgerald whose fate ends tragically at Highlands. The reader shadows the highs and lows of Evalina’s life and is given an idea of how mental illness was treated at that time. One will be captivated by the suspense, mystery, and tragedy that unfold throughout the story.

Reviewed by Lynne H., South County Regional

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