cover image The Hinterlands: A Mountain Tale in Three Parts

The Hinterlands: A Mountain Tale in Three Parts

Robert Morgan / Author Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill $21.95 (

Morgan ( Green River ), a gifted poet as well as a fiction writer, aims for the tone of an Appalachian oral history in this ambitious novel whose origins are the stories told, over the years, by members of the writer's family, hailing from North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. The first of his three narrators here is Petal Jarvis, who in 1772 elopes over the ridge from her Carolina settlement with a homesteader. This tale, the strongest part of the book, marshals the keeping-house-against-the-elements charm of many an American backwoods saga. The second story, that of Petal's elderly grandson Solomon Richards narrating events of a day in 1816, unfolds rather more slowly; and the third, set another generation later, is briefer. Morgan achieves a fable-like quality in his imaginings, though readers may find occasional vignettes slow-moving and some of the up-country local color--and down-home dialogue--familiar. But there is comfort and humor in Morgan's evocation of country people trying to survive: ``You know, son, how we all grandify things, imagine that on any given day we will do some little thing that will become history, that we are acting out a grand role even going to the outhouse or draining a puddle.'' (Apr.)