Frank Locke is the son of an opium addict in the 1920s in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. He's quit school to work in a cotton mill and take care of his parents' and grandparents' farms. He's bitter about his father, but he's found a good woman to love. Then some big family drama hits the fan and he discovers a world whose existence he'd never even dreamed of.
I'm a Blue Ridge mountain girl, so I'm a little predisposed to love books set at home anyway. But this was just gorgeous, both the writing and the story. It's not a book to rush through; it's a book to take your time over, savor, and wring every last bit of meaning out of. Here, this paragraph that explains both the title and very basic premise of the book will show you what I'm talking about.
"In the rise of crickets and peep frogs, Granny spread out her mountain mystic view of things again, and the whole wagon treated it as sacred for a moment. She'd often speak of how a little scrap of fog tears from a rain cloud. Floats on the waves of blue ridge as if a wisp off a bride. Granny and others called it she-rain, I suppose for its womanly drape, white as a wedding gown. Common legend, though Granny took the vision further. Said she-rain was like us all--little scraps torn off into the world, given to the wind, and meant to find a paradise. As she saw things, no human scrap of this life is made for the trash. Even the most ragged are fit to beautify somewhere. Fit for some quilting into the finery of creation."
And that's the hope. No matter your background, no matter what you've done, its never too late to redeem yourself. When one character finally redeems himself, I was truly almost in tears.
I feel like the synopsis does this book a little bit of a disservice. I was expecting a straight-up story of a love triangle. When Frank finally meets the second woman, the story took a turn that added unbelievable depth and richness. I won't say more.
One of the many layers of this novel is about Frank becoming more than just a semi-literate farm boy living a hard life. I am so glad that some of his best teachers were natives of his community. They showed him that just because you're illiterate in letters doesn't mean that you can't be literate in love and a life well-lived.
There are so many good, true messages in here that I just sat still, mulling them over for about fifteen minutes in the lobby where I finished it. That's a huge deal because I usually finish one book and immediately reach for the next. Considering that I finished the book in goosebumps, reading through a haze of tears, I obviously had a lot to think about. One of the biggest messages was about helping each other. The author shows that we should never be afraid to ask for help when we need it, and we should always be willing to accept help when it's offered. We should also be on the lookout for people that we can help. How much better would this world be if we just looked out for opportunities to help each other, no matter how small? Whether it's money, a meal, an ear to listen, or even just a hug on a hard day, everyone has something to offer. I'm left wondering if Cogdill chose his publisher on purpose because they donate a portion of their proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.
The speech is written in our mountain accent, and the author did an amazing job pulling that off. Not an easy feat. It all flowed for me, but because that is truly the language of my heart, I can't say if it's hard for someone else to read.
Parts were emotionally difficult to read, but in a "story of hope," an author has to give their characters a reason to need hope. As you read through the darkness, keep in mind that there will ultimately be light.
I loved the simple faith that was a common thread throughout the book. The characters come from wildly different backgrounds, different Christian denominations, or maybe even no religion at all, but they all had an earnest faith in God. They had faith that if we have faith in each other, we'll help each other be all that we can.
I loved these characters. Sophia was a woman way, way ahead of her time. Mary L. has struggled through things I can't imagine and come out stronger and wiser on the other side. Preacher Lew is hilarious, blustery, and amazingly caring. Frank is open to all that anyone wants to show him. Granny may have been my very favorite though. Her time in the book is short, but her lessons are long and lasting. She reminds me of my own little Granny with her great big heart.
This is another book that I highly recommend. I have been on a roll with these lately, haven't I? Read this when you have the time to really think it over and let the important lessons sink in. You'll be so glad you did.
I received this from the publicist in exchange for my unbiased review. Also, I don't know Michael Cogdill, but he is one of my sort-of-local news anchors.
Read another five-star review from Just One More Paragraph.
Michael Cogdill's She-Rain blog.