I'm an Appalachian mountain girl. I felt like I knew Ivy from the first sentence. She truly seemed to come to life on the pages. I came along a few generations after her time, but I felt like she could be one of my grandmothers. She talked the way I probably still talk :-) Education was important to her, and she was very smart, but she never really got a chance. I guess, really, I felt like I could have been reading family history. That says a lot about a novel.
Re-read June 28, 2009
There's not all that much to add. This is a book that touches my heart and it's hard for me to write about those.
Ivy Rowe is this book. She's spunky, she makes mistakes, she loves, she lives, she's stubborn, she's wrong sometimes; in short, she just feels real to me in a way that very few characters do. Oh, I write fairly often about how I love this or that character, but Ivy feels like someone I know. The novel is written in a series of letters that Ivy writes to others. You get inside her head and stay there. You follow Ivy from the time she's about 10 years old on. There's a whole progression of wide-eyed optimism to teenage carelessness and invincibility to repentance to more carelessness to acceptance and reflection. I live a whole other lifetime when I read this book.
Lee Smith chose to have Ivy write in our southern Appalachian dialect and she gets it just absolutely perfect. I literally "hear" Ivy with my grandmother's voice, and I hear the the preacher Sam Russell Sage as my uncle. Ivy's sister Silvaney doesn't really speak, but she reminds me of my grandmother's sister, Sue. Do you see the connection I make to this book?
It might be a little hard to read at first because Ivy's letters are full of childish mistakes and she spells our dialect phonetically, but don't be put off by that. It gets better and I think you'll understand it anyway. But for a story about a woman who makes her share of mistakes, but lives a life worth living, pick this one up. I think you'll enjoy it. And if you happen to be from the southern Appalachians, I think you'll feel the same strong connection I do. This book has a permanent place in my heart and soul.
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