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Meredith Sue Willis S Out Of The Mountains Is A Collection Of Thirteen Short Stories Set In Contemporary Appalachia Firmly Grounded In Place, The Stories Voyage Out Into The Conflicting Cultural Identities That Native Appalachians Experience As They Balance Mainstream And Mountain IdentitiesWillis S Stories Explore The Complex Negotiations Between Longtime Natives Of The Region And Its Newcomers And The Rifts That Develop Within Families Over Current Issues Such As Mountaintop Removal And Homophobia Always, However, The Situations Depicted In These Stories Are Explored In The Service Of A Deeper Understanding Of The People Involved, And Of The Place This Is Not The Mythic Version Of Appalachia, But The Appalachia Of The Twenty First Century


10 thoughts on “Out of the Mountains

  1. says:

    Some years ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing a short story collection by Meredith Sue Willis In the Mountains of America provided, as the jacket copy promised, a view of Appalachian life full of unexpected revelations Some of those coal camp gossips and lonely men of the hollers appear in her latest collection, Out of the Mountains Appalachian Stories, and indeed some of the stories from that 1994 collection have migrated into this one But like those character and those stories, this new book finds Appalachian people coming out of the past, out of the stereotypes, out of the close family ties and the constricting small towns to weave into the loose and multifarious fabric of America at large This is the story, we begin in the story Pie Knob, an opening as traditional and as powerful as Beowulf or those Appalachian ballads of sin and retribution This is a gathering of listeners, a community speaking with a common voice, people who know the stories and pass them around, generally adding some pointed observations People in Cooper County respect education, but we re probably interested in whether or not you re a good person Merlee says that s fine, how could you not agree with that, but she says she could have been a good person and never become a nurse if not for the Rosens I needed all the help I could get, she says.We say, No, you didn t, Merlee, you did it all by yourself Janice, of course, adds, with the love of Jesus.No, says Merlee, a lot of it was the Rosens Pie KnobCharacters move in and out of these linked stories the Savages, the Critchfields I was pleased to re encounter the religion tormented teenager of The Little Harlots returning as a different kind of preacher in Scandalous Roy Critchfield Most of all, Merlee Savage grows through this collection, taking the stereotype of the uneducated, beaten down mountain woman and turning it on its head Her marriage to C.T Savage who liked to be footloose and fancy free, which often meant job free and away from home has brought her to the anticipated end, stuck in a trailer with the babies but like a rock climber in a tough spot, she flings out her raw boned limbs and finds a new purchase point In Pie Knob she begins her emancipation to Merlee Savage, Registered Nurse when she takes on the task of caring for a professor s wife suffering through breast cancer treatments She is tempted than once, by a pretty necklace, by the professor himself indeed, she says that she developed a crush on them both But she returns the necklace and passes through the fire of sexual temptation to be rewarded with the wherewithal to finish school She returns in On the Road with C.T Savage to stand by her man in his last days, providing him with this final loving benediction, Goddamn you, C.T Savage The tropes of Appalachian fiction God fearing piety, homecomings to funerals, that good woman standing by her bad man are picked up, examined, and put back with care usually upside down Nowhere is this evident that in Big Boss Is Back, where a woman asks to have her breasts removed because they trouble her husband, who has returned Big Boss is, however, dead but his legacy of domineering and browbeating lives on, until Frankie finds a way to tame his demanding spirit.But these people of the mountains are firmly knit into American life than their grandparents, pulled into the mainstream by television and fast food and interstate highways College takes them away and sends them back, as does war And the mainstream finds its way into the hills, for good or ill whether in the form of an ambitious pornographer recruiting street kids for an interracial epic, or of a young woman who becomes a part of New York City s Jewish community than the members of that community themselves.Meredith Sue Willis has made a name as a teacher and writer about teaching, as a writer of young adult fiction and novels for adults In this collection she stakes out the high ground, opening with a tale that interweaves the lives of anarchist Emma Goldman as she passes through the mountains on her way to prison, painter Gustav Klimt, and her own grandmother standing fast in the raw highlands of Bold Camp The people of Appalachia, she reminds us, were the restless souls who made their way into the mountains, and whether they stay or move on, their spirits are not tied down.


  2. says:

    The broadest array of people and situations make up this rewarding collection of Appalachian stories a few of them don t even take place primarily in Appalachia Nothing is static or predictable here there are the people who move in and those who leave, town folk and mountain folk, women who make shopping runs to Manhattan and those who rarely leave the house, liberal lefties and evangelicals though sometimes, in Willis s nuanced world view, the evangelicals turn out to be kind of lefty also Willis is a lively and humane storyteller who can take on tricky political and religious material without derailing a narrative All the stories are fine ones, but the standouts for me are Triangulation, a moving meditation on the big and small actors in history, Tara White, and two Vietnam tales, Nineteen Sixty Nine and Evenings With Dotson Short story lovers have a great pleasure coming their way.


  3. says:

    After the first couple of stories I thought I wasn t going to like this collection, but as so often happens it grew on me I can t say the writing itself was particularly memorable the pencil I keep handy for underlining wonderful sentences or marking meaningful passages remained unused but the stories were imaginative and well told More to the point, as a collection they built on one another and revisted many of the same characters in a way that worked I can see myself coming back to this book in the future and reexperiencing these characters in hopes of understanding them or myself better.


  4. says:

    The writing can be a little clunky, but as someone who spent time in Fairmont, West Virginia near where a lot of this book seems to take place , I can say she nailed the idiosyncracies of the community pretty well She talks about chili dogs which are rampant in WV and some other things I remembered from out there Overall, this book doesn t take up much time so I think it s worth reading a few of the stories At the very least, it s a study of human behavior.


  5. says:

    The writing can be a little clunky, but as someone who spent time in Fairmont, West Virginia near where a lot of this book seems to take place , I can say she nailed the idiosyncracies of the community pretty well She talks about chili dogs which are rampant in WV and some other things I remembered from out there Overall, this book doesn t take up much time so I think it s worth reading a few of the stories At the very least, it s a study of human behavior.


  6. says:

    Selection two for our Gold n Bluestockings WV Reads 150 team Enjoyed these overlapping stories set mostly in northcentral West Virginia Willis does a fine job capturing small town Appalachian life.