Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bookish Review: The Killing Tree

Okay, I have to confess: I am not a huge fan of Southern literature. Faulkner is a genius and all, but given the choice, I am not going to pick up The Sound and the Fury for leisure reading. Or any kind of reading, unless forced. (Yes, I've read it. Yes, it was an assignment.) So, I was a bit wary when I received the ARC* for The Killing Tree by Rachel Keener.

But, I read it anyway. And I enjoyed it, for the most part. The book is really Appalachian literature, set on Crooktop Mountain, and the portrayal of the small mountain community rings true. Mercy Heron does not have an easy life. Raised by a controlling and violent deacon grandfather and an at least half-crazy, but loving, grandmother, she doesn't see a way out of her life. When she falls in love with a migrant worker named Trout, she's knows she's in dangerous territory. If her grandfather found out, she can only imagine what he might do to her or to Trout. She can't resist being loved by someone who sees her as glorious and graceful and for who she truly is, not just as Father Heron's graddaughter. She runs off with Trout, secretly gets married, and gets pregnant. Her major mistake was returning to Crooktop to rescue her best friend so they can all run off together. When she goes to retrieve her friend, Trout disappears, and the truth of how and why he left remains hidden from Mercy for a while. In the meantime, she must hide her pregnancy, and then her baby, from Father Heron for fear of what he may do. As you read, you can feel tragedy looming, but just how or why it will appear is uncertain.

The ending is not fully happy or fully sad, which is to be expected. An interesting and powerful read.

*ARC=Advance Reading Copy. It means you get to scope out the book before it is for sale to the general public. This is how advance reviews happen. Not every book gets ARCs because they are expensive, but they can be effective marketing tools for generating advance buzz for a book.

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