North Carolina Fiction
The June 15th issue of Library Journal offered the following Reader's Shelf column:
Storyteller's Delight: Tarheel Fiction
From the Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks, North Carolina teems with stories. As one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, it is changing before our eyes, and the conflict between past and present is a continuing theme in the literary works of its native scribes.
Thomas Wolfe's 1929 Look Homeward, Angel is still the classic North Carolina novel. The young author worked with the legendary editor Maxwell Perkins to shape the massive original manuscript. How massive? O Lost--Wolfe's initial title for the book--is the literary equivalent of a director's cut DVD. Here, restored to the author's original vision, is the coming-of-age story of sensitive Eugene Gant and his boisterous, chaotic family in early 20th century Asheville. Wolfe's bombastic prose is left intact, providing a richly detailed portrait of a pre-Depression boom town and the development of a young artist.
The steady production of cozy, heart-warming novels set in the picturesque mountain towns of western North Carolina has become a cottage industry. Jan Karon's seventh book featuring affable Father Tim Kavanaugh, In This Mountain, continues the touching stories of the residents of idyllic Mitford, a town modeling on Blowing Rock, N.C. Just down the road, readers will find the ladies of Covington in Joan A. Medlicott's At Home in Covington. These women "of a certain age" run a rambling boardinghouse in a quiet mountain town. Abbotsville is the small scenic fictional setting for Ann B. Ross's "Miss Julia" novels. In Miss Julia Meets Her Match, the funny and fiercely independent Julia weighs a marriage proposal from a longtime suitor.
Acclaimed cartoonist Doug Marlette's The Bridge explores the rich textile history of North Carolina's central piedmont region. Pick Cantrell is a successful but controversial editorial cartoonist who has just returned home from New York. At the heart of the novel is Pick's feisty grandmother, Mama Lucy, who recalls her involvement in the mill workers' strikes that swept the South in the 1920's.
Before CSI popped up on television, Simon Shaw was on the case. The bumbling professor of forensic history at fictional Kenan College in Raleigh is back at work in Sarah Shaber's The Bug Funeral. When a woman claims to have committed a crime in a previous life, Shaw is skeptical but finds that the story is not as simple as it seems. His investigation leads him to some troubling events in the history of North Carolina's capital city.
Popular Raleigh TV weatherman Will Baggett's life crumbles when he loses his job, his wife leaves him, and he's arrested for a crime he didn't commit. In Robert Inman's Captain Saturday, Baggett flees his sophisticated life in the big city to visit family in a rural eastern county where he begins his recovery by delving into his past.
The reigning crime-solver in Tar Heel fiction is Margaret Maron's Judge Deborah Knott. In High Country Fall, Judge Knott flees her native eastern North Carolina home in search of peace and quiet. But then she's forced to step out from behind the bench and pursue a murder mystery on her own. Maron does an excellent job of depicting the clash between North Carolina's increasingly high-tech future and its traditional, agrarian past.
As Anderson Ferrell's Have You Heard opens, Jerry Chiffon is dressed in woman's clothing and pointing a gun at a well-known conservative North Carolina senator. The life story of Chiffon--a gay man in a closed, conservative community who fled to New York City--unfolds as several narrators, all residents of a small eastern town, struggle to understand what has happened.
Some of the best North Carolina stories come from the Outer Banks, the windswept chain of islands stretching along the coast. In B.J. Mountford's Bloodlines of Shackleford Banks, the action unfolds on a small island where wild horses still run free. Roberta "Bert" Lenehan, a park ranger charged with giving the horses their annual checkup, quickly discovers that one of the horses is missing, and there are signs of foul play. Then a local woman is killed. Mountford's interesting tale weaves the history of the wild horses with a contemporary drama in which greedy developers are pitted against environmental activists.
The above column was taken from Library Journal and contributed by Nicholas Graham, Head of Public Services, North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
You may also like these novels set in North Carolina, all available at your library:
What Lies Buried: A Novel of Old Cape Fear by Dewey Lambdin. In pre-Revolutionary Wilmington, North Carolina, nothing is as it seems. Respected political leader Harry Tresmayne has been found murdered beside a lonely road in Cape Fear, and the more his friend Matthew Livesey uncovers about Harry's private life, the more he finds motives for murder. Soon the suspect list includes some of the hightest--and lowest--born of the region, and Livesey and his family face the consequences as a cold-blooded killer is run to ground.
In pre-Revolutionary Wilmington, North Carolina, nothing is as it seems. Respected political leader Harry Tresmayne has been found murdered beside a lonely road in Cape Fear, and the more his friend Matthew Livesey uncovers about Harry's private life, the more he finds motives for murder. Soon the suspect list includes some of the hightest--and lowest--born of the region, and Livesey and his family face the consequences as a cold-blooded killer is run to ground.
The Past is Never Dead by David Sculman. Gritz Goldberg is a middle-aged psychiatrist with an obsessive-compulsive disorder and a foot fetish. He's living in his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina with his ex-mother in-law and still lusts for an adolescent lost love. And whenever one of his patients answers his questions with anger and mistruths, Gritz swears he can smell Zelda Fitzgerald's personal perfume--so what if Gritz's office was the same one used by Zelda's therapist years ago; Zelda has been dead for decades. Just as Gritz begins to question his existence he is called to the Battery Park Hotel to convince a possible suicide not to jump off the roof. As he investigates, Gritz uncovers dirty secrets that involve prominent people--people involved in a plot to assassinate President Franklin Roosevelt and aid the Nazi movement in Germany in the, 1930s. As his search for the truth proceeds. Gritz is framed for the murder of an elderly woman who is living at the Happy Valley Retirement Community. Some of the characters are based on actual historical figures.
Circle of Grace by Penelope J. Stokes. For the last thirty years, Grace has been living a lie; now it's about to catch up with her. On college graduation day, she and her friends agreed to keep a journal which would make the rounds for the next thirty years. In the journal, Liz is committed to bettering the world. Tess seems content as a professor, wife, and mother. Amanda enjoys married life with her college boyfriend, a former Minnesota Viking-turned-executive. As for Grace, she never intended to deceive her friends. At first, she simply embellished the truth and omitted a few details from her entries. However, one exaggeration led to another until most of the life she had written was fiction. Now she is extremely ill. Reunited, her friends help Grace face the most important battle of her life while embarking on the most important struggle of their own lives--the fight for honesty and friendship.
Step-ball-change: A Novel by Jeanne Ray. Dance instructor Caroline and her lawyer husband Tom are looking forward to spending time alone together as they waltz their way gracefully into retirement. Suddenly, though, their empty nest is filling up. Caroline's sister arrives with a load of luggage, a bad-tempered terrier, and a broken heart. Their daughter, Kay, brings home her fiance, the richest boy in Raleigh, and plans a high-society wedding that could wipe out Caroline and Tom's savings. And a contractor finds cracks in the foundation of their home and sets up camp indefinitely. Filled with warmth, wit, and insight, this tale of a family caught in a whirlwind of change reminds us that life is what happens while we're making other plans-and that having loved ones along for the ride is the greatest blessing of all.
Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons. In Ellen Foster, the title character is an 11-year-old orphan who refers to herself as "old Ellen," an appellation that is disturbingly apt. Ellen is an old woman in a child's body; her frail, unhappy mother dies, her abusive father alternately neglects her and makes advances on her, and she is shuttled from one uncaring relative's home to another before she finally takes matters into her own hands and finds herself a place to belong. There is something almost Dickensian about Ellen's tribulations; like Oliver Twist, David Copperfield or a host of other literary child heroes, Ellen is at the mercy of predatory adults, with only her own wit and courage--and the occasional kindness of others--to help her through. That she does, in fact, survive her childhood and even rise above it is the book's bittersweet victory.
To find more novels set in North Carolina, visit this website:
Read North Carolina Novels
**All synopsis taken from Books In Print except for Ellen Foster--this synopsis provided by Oprah's book club.