Saturday, July 4, 2009
Since I'm participating in the challenge on Maggie Reads blog to read three Southern novels between June 15 and August 15, it is time to post my second novel completed, Sheila Kay Adams' My Old True Love. I've mentioned the book in earlier posts, but I am giving this entire post's attention to the book. I started and finished the book--almost without stopping--at the beach this week. I chose this novel because Adams has been selected as the 2009 Ragan-Rubin Award winner by the North Carolina English Teachers Association. Although I had read her stories, I hadn't read her full-length works until now. I am so glad I did.
The novel, which I learned in her afterword was based on her family history, is set in Sodom, NC, in Madison County (known as Bloody Madison because of events during the Civil War. ) From the first page, Arty, the narrator, rang so true for me. Adams' use of dialogue, toned down, she says, with help from her editor, evoked the voices of my grandmother for me.
Sometimes when I read Southern dialect (my native tongue), I wonder how readers without my familiarity (translation: Yankees) will take to the book. Then I remind myself that when I have attended a Shakespearean production with friends who weren't English majors, that I had some of the same misgivings--needlessly. I do know, though, that you have to read with your ear. All those reading lessons about squelching "subvocalization" go right out the door.
This book handles one of the historical periods that fascinates me most, addressing the tension between sides in areas where almost no one owned slaves. The bigger story, though, is about love and family and inner demons. Woven throughout the narrative are the old ballads, or "love songs," as they've always been known in this part of the country. I was so excited to learn at the end of the book that a "soundtrack" for the book, called All the Other Fine Things, had been recorded. (Tim O'Brien, John Herrmann, and Dirk Powell did the same for the novel Cold Mountain, long before it became a movie.)
Reading this book accomplished two or three things: First, it made me long to sit down and talk to Sheila Kay Adams. I also want to talk to someone else who has read the book, just to work my way through it. It also made me want to re-read Ron Rash's novel The World Made Straight, which deals in part with the Bloody Madison episodes. Finally, I want to choose my next Southern novel.