The Stantons and the Nortons were families in the truest, oldest sense: extended networks of kin stretching across the mountains, everyone within hiking distance. They'd come from the British Isles and settled in the Appalachians of North Carolina during the 1700s, bringing with them their dearly loved songs and their clannish ways, their ties to the land ultimately becoming as strong as their ties to one another.
So when Larkin Stanton is left parentless at birth in the 1840s, he is taken in by his cousin Arty Norton and, true to the family way, starts singing before he starts talking. As Larkin grows up, he hungrily learns every song he can, as well as the subtleties of ballad singing: how the songs are about the joys and the horrors of life, and how the best singers can produce a song that will summon tears. Going head-to-head with Arty's brother, Hackley, the cousins' competitions to produce the finest song soon spill over into the wooing of the finest girl in the community, Mary.
When Hackley wins Mary and then leaves to fight in the Civil War, Larkin, still too young to enlist, finds himself uncontrollably drawn to the woman who's held his heart for years. What he does about that love defies all he has learned about family and loyalty - and reminds us that these mournful ballads didn't come just from the imagination, but from imperfections of the heart.
©2004 Sheila Kay Adams (P)2005 Recorded Books, LLC
Particularly relevant to
Me after returning from a holiday in a location close the the book setting and having seen the author perform some of the songs at the Whitby Festival. I liked the way that the story was told in the first person and used the vernacular. Not knowing that much about the civil war but aware that there were many battles in Tennessee I was interested
In the perspective of mountain folk, especially the women, that was portrayed in this tale.
I felt like my grandma was reading this book to me. The narration flowed and the singing was pleasing. A great story told.
"authentic and entertaining"
As a local Southern Appalachian woman, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. The author portrays the era and culture respectfully and with authenticity. I read some criticism of the narrator but found her voice equally appropriate to the main character. She doesn't perform the music but instead sings the ballads as Arty would have done.
"Wrong Book for Audio"
I only listen when I'm doing house work or yard work, so I never feel like I've wasted time listening.
Not as an audio book, but maybe as a regular one. There was a lot of not-great singing on the audio version.
I think maybe a man's voice would have worked better as two of the main characters were male and singers. Having a woman's voice try to replicate old songs sung by young men didn't really work. Also, I could hear doors shutting and coughing in the background in some places when I had my headphones on.
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