This novel is a gem. It’s the first in a series about West Virginia. I couldn’t help wondering if this Texan author may actually have grown up in West Virginia, as her knowledge of the land and people are detailed and intimate. The main theme of the story is loyalty to the land and commitments made to each other, as well as faith and forgiveness. It has many plot twists and well-developed characters who evolve throughout the story.
The main protagonists are Will, a kind and hard-working apple farmer, and Sybil, his wayward, selfish wife. Then there’s Tilly, the reclusive elderly mountain woman who lives alone in the dark forests of the Appalachian Mountains, who survives by foraging plants and roots in a subsistence lifestyle of fear and paranoia. She also supplies mountain medicine to her fellow Blacks.
Carl Rhode, banker, wife beater, and cruel condescending drunk, owns the neighboring horse farm to Will’s. His wife Eleanor is long-suffering and wary of her husband’s moods. She tries to keep peace while remembering the happy family she grew up in. They have two sons, and the younger one is injured by his father in a dramatic scene. Danny is a sweet young man who is guileless and kind.
Matilda, an elderly childless widow, rounds out this wonderful cast of characters. She’s the voice of common sense and wisdom, a salt of the earth character who helps pull it all together as the novel comes to an end. Secondary and tertiary characters fill in the background tapestry of this lovely story.
The 1929 bank collapse changes everything for these families. Their lives become intertwined in surprising ways as secrets are revealed.
Interestingly, the first two chapters of From The Earth, the second book in the Wonderful West Virginia Series, is included at the end of the novel and some of the same characters find themselves in complicated life situations. I can’t wait to read the entire novel to see what happens. Brenda O’Bannion is definitely a great story teller!