Sunday, February 1, 2009

Gap Creek by Robert Morgan

The front cover of this book touts that it is the "story of a marriage." I disagree. I think, rather, that this is the story of a woman, one Julie Harmon, who struggles through an unbelievable series of disasters - both natural, as with the flood, and of her own human making, as with her foolish mistake of giving away much-needed money to con-artists and tricksters - either way, a deluge of plague after plague (one literal), all drop down from what must seem like a merciless God througout this incredibly detailed, vivid, though stark, work from Morgan.

Through everying - the deaths of her brother and father, a disappointing, to say the least, married life with a hard man, Hank Richards - Julie persevers with not only the stiff upper-lip of the British, an unquivering chin, but a dignity the she pulls from a depth of strength that I think is seldom found in the pink, smoothed-handed life of the suburban, modern century - this book is set in Appalachia during the late 1800's.

Though the phrase is cliched, Morgan manages to bring the characters, the knuckle-breaking day-to-day life, the relief and simple pleasure of nature, "to life" in this extraordinary expanse of a novel. The misfortune that besets the main character, and the survival, reminds me of a long ago reading of Silas Marner, and this work deserves to become no less a classic. - 5 stars

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