Byron Ballard, Accent on Books, Asheville, N.C.
The Southern highlands of Appalachia are steeped in family histories and larger-than-life characters. Wayne Caldwell's Requiem by Fire (Random House, Mar.) is gleaned from his own family story and is a rich and thought-provoking read. His first book, Cataloochee, set the stage for an impassioned struggle between settlers and the land. Requiem is its sequel—now the creation of a federal park becomes the nemesis and ultimate downfall of old Catalooch. Writers from “off” (as we mountain folks call anyone not from our own corner of the vasty world) tend to paint mountain people as either degenerate in-bred rubes or noble savages. Caldwell understands the complexities of these odd Scots-Irish hill folks and tells an intriguing tale, peopled with characters we somehow know, as he sets the reader down into the novel's world. He spins these homely tales against the larger backdrop of the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, never losing sight of the personal loss amid the cultural one.