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The Road from Gap Creek by Robert Morgan

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When Robert Morgan’s novel Gap Creek was published in 1999, it became an Oprah Book Club Selection and an instant national bestseller, attracting hundreds of thousands of readers to its story of a marriage begun with love and hope at the turn of the twentieth century. Set in the Appalachian South, it followed Julie and Hank Richards as they struggled through the first year and a half of their union.

But what, readers asked, of the years that followed? What did the future hold for these memorable characters?

The Road from Gap Creek holds the answers to these questions, as Robert Morgan takes us back into their lives, telling their story and the stories of their children through the eyes of their youngest daughter, Annie. Through Annie, we watch as the four Richards children create their own histories, lives that include both triumphs and hardship in the face of the Great Depression and then World War II. Much more than a sequel, The Road from Gap Creek is a moving and indelible portrait of people and their world in a time of unprecedented change, an American story told by one of our country’s most acclaimed writers.

“In The Road From Gap Creek [Morgan] delivers another powerhouse novel of his people, with their virtues and failings, wins and losses, loves and sorrows.”

(Daniel Woodrell, author of “Winter’s Bone”)

My Review

Troy was an athlete, an artist, and a soldier. He had kin, brothers and sisters, his death brings grief upon the family concerned in this story. One sister in particular, the narrator of this tale in first person narrative, the wonderful Annie, her voice, her world view, the world according to her, her keen perspective on the world as we know it is the stuff that makes this such a great tale, by the end you feel you know Annie, you’ve learned of her through her coming of age and family trials, the authors characterisation and empathy crafted in this work was spot on and he depicts her with great skill in showing her to us in this wonderful story. The story was set in testing times the great depression and Pearl Harbour.
Though shall forever remember her, her journey, her love, her losses, her gains, and her struggle to find tears in a testing time that awaits its weeping in this tale.
From her naievty of youth to her wisdom of age you will love this walk that this capable author has immersed you in.
There is a presence of death and loss like that of his bestseller Gap Creek for me this novel had me hooked more than Gap Creek.

Read the excerpts and you can get a taste of the voice of Annie and her sometimes humorous understandings.

Excerpts

“Now when we got to the house, Papa walked straight to Mama where she set by the bread safe. He put his hand on her shoulder, but she didn’t even look up at him. I’d seen her do that before. She couldn’t stand to be comforted or show affection in front of anybody. He’d touch her, try to put his arm around her, and she’d just pay him no heed. I thought she was too shy to show her feelings when another person was looking. Maybe she thought her and Papa was too old to act intimate. But when she just set there paying no attention to Papa reaching out to her at that awful moment, I seen it was something else. She’d give her life to working for other people and caring for other people. She’d put up with Papas whims and rages, and all it had led to was this. She’d lived on grits and molasses when they was young down on Gap Creek. She’d give everything to raise her children, and she had lost her favorite child. She didn’t want to show no emotion anymore.”

 

“I never did understand why men was attracted to me. For I was never much attracted to them. Or I guess I was and I wasn’t. It was a kind of surprise when I was about thirteen and just beginning to show breasts and to have hips you could notice that I seen men watching me. It was a little scary to catch men and big boys always looking at my legs. My legs was just beginning to get their shape then. I was a skinny little thing when I was a girl, and the dresses we wore in those days went down to your ankles almost. But I’d see men looking at my ankles and calves. Men always look at a woman’s legs first. I reckon they can’t help it.

     When you’re a little girl it don’t occur to you how fascinating a woman’s butt is to a man. And even if it did, you wouldn’t be able to talk about it. But it was shivery to find a man studying your behind, especially when you walked, like they couldn’t take their eyes off it. And if you caught them looking, most turned away, like they was ashamed of enjoying the sight of your rear end. But some didn’t care at all. They’d look you right in the eye and grin. The bold men was the scariest. They’d stare at you like they could see everything under your dress, like you didn’t have no clothes on at all.

     There is a way in which men just seem like animals, compared to women. Most of the time all men think about is their bellies. The saying is that the way to a man’s heart is through his belly, and I reckon that’s true, as far as it goes. Men will set down at the table and eat like hogs, they will. And when nobody ain’t looking they’ll go out in the garden and eat four ripe tomatoes or half a watermelon that has cooled overnight and still has dew on it.”

 

“Oh, about fifty miles,” Papa said, and laughed.

The road went through a holler between thickets of laurel bushes deeper and deeper and I heard the roar of water. The noise of a waterfall is like a warning. It makes you shudder.

  The road come out of the laurels beside a pool, and above the pool a long gray beard of water fell off the lip of rock and tumbled down a slope rough as a washboard. The roar by itself made you think it was something terrible, like the end of the world.

  Beyond the falls the road wound on around the hill and plunged down again so steep Papa had to pull on the wagon brake and you could hear the wheel scrubbing on the wood of the brake. My knees got sore from going down the steep hill.

  Finally we come to a field and the road run along the edge of the field and dropped into the river. Papa stopped the horse right at the bank. He told Velmer to tie the cows rope to the back of the wagon. Then he pointed up the river to a foot log and told us to cross there. 

   Now I’d crossed little foot logs over Gap Creek that bounced and swayed but wasn’t too long. But this was a big foot log high up over the river. There was a handrail to hold on to, but I stepped up on the end of the log and stopped. The swirl of water far below made me dizzy. 

  I watched Effie walk across the swaying log and my knees felt weak. Leaves floated by on the water below. Birch trees and maple trees leaned out over the river. I thought of getting down and crawling across the log. Papa had already drove the wagon across the ford and stopped on the other side.”

 

“I DON’T RECKON anybody could see the Depression coming on, unless it was the preachers. Preachers kept saying the world was coming to an end or coming to a terrible punishment for the sins that people had done. It was a terrible time of bootlegging and gangsters and wild parties in the cities, and girls that cut off nearly all their hair and acted like they’d gone crazy, wearing lipstick and rouge and smoking cigarettes in public. But preachers talk that way, don’t they? Preachers always sec doom and tribulation. That’s how they get people to come up to the altar and get saved and join their church and give their money to the collection. They get them scared and then they keep them scared.

    But nobody I knew could tell what was going to happen when we heard the stock market way up north crashed and people jumped out of windows. I thought a stock market was a place where they sold horses and cattle. It sounded like a whole building that had burned and fell down. I was in my last year of high school and everybody seemed to be talking about the Wall Street Panic.”

 

“When we got outside and walked down the steps the sunlight was almost blinding. It was not a sunny day, but the light in the clouds was glaring. It seemed almost strange to me to come out of the church and see the trees and feel the wind. I was almost surprised to see the road and the fields, the parked cars and cattle in the pasture, and the gray and blue mountains, and everything going on about its business, like nothing had happened in the church, nothing had been said. There seemed little connection between the words inside the church and what went on outside. But the strangeness was not bad. In fact it was comforting, to see the peacefulness of the shrubbery and parking lot, going on in time as always. It was both good and scary to see that time didn’t stop for nothing. We might all be getting older, and a dear one was gone, but life and time went on, no matter about the talk of hell and heaven, sin and getting saved.”

 

 

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 28 August 2013