Lee County Elegy

By Courtney Allen

Book Blurb

From Courtney Allen, the author of the award-winning novel, Down From The Mountain, comes Lee County Elegy, which is an equal work in depth, character portrayal, and historical fiction. This novel follows the morally challenging account of the Grayson family, of how they survive in the rural south during the Great Depression, and by what means they overcome a life of unfavorable consequences. In the beginning, Mac Grayson suffers a critical lumberyard accident that leaves him helpless to support his farm and family. Due to the onslaught of the weakening economy, land values plummet and the bank threatens foreclosure. During a drought, a bitter dispute with a wealthy landowner concerning water access to the Flint River becomes a contentious argument, and volatile tensions mount. In order to survive, an agreement must be met, but Mac must negotiate and risk the well-being of his family to assuage their neighbor’s divisiveness. In this story, the Grayson’s are faced with few resources and endless controversies fraught with dire consequences that create challenges almost impossible to overcome. Filled with page-turning suspense and unyielding dilemmas, the ends required to endure are made by difficult choices, and the honor of each character is brought into question as the story unfolds. This depression era novel is of sorrow and redemption, struggle and hardship, of love and loss. The pace is fast, the heart of the book strong, and the ending bittersweet yet satisfyingly triumphant. For historical fiction lovers, Lee County Elegy is worth reading.

Blurb from Goodreads.

My Review

In this beautifully detailed historical novel about the depression era and the hard times that fell on everyone, we meet Myra Grayson who is the central character in the story.  Maclin and Ila Mae Grayson adopted Myra when she was just 3 years old.  She had two older brothers, Arden and Cade.  Times were tough.  Ila Mae was long ago institutionalized in another town for dementia and Myra, a young teen, was left to care for Maclin who had been in a horrible “accident” and left with permanent disabilities.  She had the responsibility of caring for their home, preparing meals, and doing some of the farm work.  When the depression hit, things went downhill quickly.  Arden left to bring Ila Mae back home when the institution could no longer take care of her financially.  Cade took off after an unfortunate incident and left Myra to fend for herself and Maclin.

Jack Waylon, their neighbor, had his eye on their land because of the natural supply of water he wanted access to for his farm.  There was a long history of conflict between Maclin and Jack and Maclin refused the access and threatened Jack if he stepped foot on his land.  This set the stage for the rest of the story.

I found the characters to be well developed and believable.  Myra showed an incredible amount of resilience and such a soft side. At times, I felt if I could reach in and give her a hug or a pat on the back, her life would have been easier, if only for a moment. Maclin often seemed gruff but considering his situation, it made his character come to life. I felt Arden and Cade got a lot of attention in the beginning, but then, for the most part, seemed to drop out of the story, being resurrected now and again.  Jack Waylon had a strong Jekyll and Hyde persona.  He was a character I loved to hate, one I could have pulled out of the book and smacked around.

I had a difficult time getting into the story, unusual for one of Courtney Allen’s books.  It started off slowly with a great deal of description and a story that seemed to be going nowhere. I was concerned about whether the story would ever pique my interest.  As the storyline took precedence, I became intrigued and couldn’t put Lee County Elegy down.

As always, the author researched the era and the locale with great attention to detail.  Though life was difficult in the cities, it was much harder felt in the rural areas.  These contrasts were well documented in the story.

Because I almost lost interest before the story reeled me in, I am giving this book four stars.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Disclaimer

I was given a copy of Lee County Elegy by the author in exchange for my honest review. 
I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

 

About the Author

Courtney Allen lives with his family in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been writing for many years and has written several other books.

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Time Trail

By Janet Slater

Book Blurb

Casey arrives in southwest Ohio expecting a working retreat, staying at a historic home along a wooded bike trail while analyzing lead-contaminated soil samples at an abandoned ammunition factory. Instead she is drawn into events that shape history along two railroads-one, buried by the bike trail, that took a newly-elected president to his inauguration and a Civil War; and the other an Underground Railroad of courageous people and high ideals, but also of buried secrets. Told through a fugitive slave interview, newspaper articles, an old diary and modern narration, three stories intertwine in this novel based on a real place and people both real and imagined.  (Goodreads.com)

My Review

This novella length novel was right up my alley.  It is a historical fiction set right in my backyard. The story takes place between the towns of Morrow, Ohio and Fosters, Ohio along the Little Miami Scenic Trail (a wooded bike/walking trail) in southwestern Ohio.  Much of the story takes place at the Peters Cartridge Factory which is abandoned and is situated between the two towns and just over the hill from my house.

Casey came to Ohio to collect soil samples at the old factory. She rented an old house in Fosters that still exists today. The house was built by Henry Butterworth and was a stop on the Underground Railroad.  In order not to reveal too much of the story, I won’t delve into what happens in this short novel, but I will say it has a time travel element where Casey is taken back in time to learn of happenings relating to that time.  From a historical point of view, though some of the details are fictionalized, there were deaths from a munitions factory explosion, president-elect Lincoln’s whistle-stop ride through Morrow, and the history surrounding the Underground Railroad and the dangers faced by slaves. For those who love romance, there is some of that, too, but not so much to scare off anyone who isn’t interested in that genre.

This was truly an enjoyable read and I would definitely recommend it to EVERYONE!

About the Author

Janet Slater is a writer and editor and a former writing instructor at the University of Cincinnati. She has served as editor of two local magazines and several books, and currently is editor of Trail Mail, the newsletter of Friends of the Little Miami State Park. Her love of local history and research inspires her writing, most recently in Time Trail, set just north of Cincinnati where she lives with her husband. She is also the author of A Home in the Storm, a historical fiction book for children ages 8 to 12. Janet volunteers on the board of directors of the Friends of the Little Miami State Park and enjoys inline skating and bicycling on its beautiful trail.

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Down from the Mountain

By Courtney Allen

 

My Review

From the first, I was impressed with the author’s rich descriptions in Down from the Mountain.  Normally I don’t enjoy reading a book that contains so much detail, but the vivid descriptions brought the story to life.  The author researched his subject well and depicted an Appalachian family that was hard-working, fierce, and loyal.  The story is based in Fort Mountain, a town in northern Georgia near the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Narrated by Silas McCarter, who along with his sister Clara, was orphaned at a very young age and taken in by their Uncle Troy and Aunt Bly.  They worked the land on Fort Mountain, scaping out a meager living.

The story is filled with family love, a family feud, murder, and violence.  The community pulls together to help their friend Troy Stanton.  There are racial taboos of the time and unexpected outcomes.  This book has all of this and more. The many diversions of the plot are all pulled neatly together for a satisfying end.

I recommend Down from the Mountain to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Disclaimer
I was given a copy of Down from the Mountain by the author in exchange for my honest review.
I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

 

Blurb

Down from the Mountain is a historical fiction of a struggling Appalachian family, working and living a hand-to-mouth existence on hard and unforgiving land. In the beginning, Troy Stanton’s young niece, Clara, becomes pregnant, and there is much contention as to the father and how to manage the circumstances. When the pregnant Clara suddenly vanishes, Troy is mired in indecision and finds few answers with no one to turn to. The Stanton’s suspect foul play from someone inside the small town, but Clara’s brother, Silas, discovers the secret and must bury it from the eyes of the community for the truth is never to be told.

From the greatest desires comes the most bitter hatred, and the Stanton’s must stand their ground in order to survive in a world fraught with unjust grievances and black-hearted adversaries. The story is built as Clara embarks on a treacherous journey and brother Silas copes with living on the mountain, ultimately defending his own life, while Troy goes in search of his niece after she mysteriously disappears from their mountain home. Along the way, Clara’s fatherless, unborn child is in peril as Clara undertakes the dangerous road to another life and onto her final destination, one that she never intended arriving at in the first place. Involving matters in the region, the Stanton’s are faced with generational hatreds that refuse to die and negotiating their lives in the highlands of Appalachia becomes increasingly difficult. They are paired with many challenges and dilemmas of moral choices, life decisions, compromising situations, danger, distrust, and honor. Life in the mountains is hard and keeping his family name is first and foremost to Troy Stanton.

This story is an intriguing journey of love and struggle, even murder and death, between the will to move their lives onward and the desire to become a family once again. Turn the cover to find the opening pages compelling, the heart of the book strong, and the ending satisfying yet bittersweet. Down from the Mountain is a tasteful début novel that will fill you with wonder, entice your soul, and leave you wanting more.

Blurb is taken from Goodreads.

About the Author

Courtney Allen lives with his family in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been writing for many years and has written six other novels. Down from the Mountain is his first published book.

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