Following Hiwassee and Freedom's Altar, winner of the 1999 Sir Walter Raleigh Award honoring the best work of fiction by a North Carolinian, this novel completes a trilogy based on Price's own family's post-Civil War quest to put aside defeat and shame and reestablish a semblance of harmony and dignity in their once-idyllic mountains of western North Carolina. In 1880, 19-year-old Ves Price personifies the chaos and lawlessness of the Reconstruction Era. Unwilling to follow in his father's footsteps and become a cobbler and tenant farmer, Ves turns to moonshining, working for Webb Darling, self-proclaimed king of the moonshiners. That proving unsuccessful, he then becomes an informant for the Revenuers, alienating even his old friend Hamby McFee, a mulatto and distant cousin of the Curtis family. When Webb finds out about Ves's treachery, he holds Ves captive and tortures him. Ves has been obsessed with 25-year-old Becky Curtis, last surviving daughter of Judge Madison Curtis. Her beauty fading, Becky is burdened with caring for her surviving brother, Andy, who is inexorably sinking into insanity and frightens away Becky's suitors. Finally, confronted by her own mortality, Becky is moved to act in desperation. The last narrative thread involves ex-slave Hamby, who dreams of amassing enough money to escape and find freedom outside the valley of the Hiwassee. In a final showdown at Webb's mountaintop fortress, a cockfight leads Hamby to a profound epiphany. Lyrically written, character-rich and authentically atmospheric, the novel affords a deeply affecting insight into the aftermath of war. While this novel holds considerable regional appeal, it could prove a favorite of Civil War- oriented readers as well, with a push provided by a planned extensive tour of the Southeast by the author. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000 Release date: 10/01/2000 Genre: Fiction
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