So imagine the movie The VVitch taking place about a 100 years later, and in western Virginia/border of Ohio territory instead. There’s still lots of fear and anxiety but there’s no witch. Not even a little witch.
This novel comes from a collection of novels by a novelist most (including me until about a year or so ago) from West Virginis named Mary Lee Settle. One of those novelists who spends her entire career at a university, even wins some awards, but maybe doesn’t have the cultural impact of someone much more known.
This novel cycle, and cycle is the right word because they don’t feel quite fully formed novels in terms of plots, follows the loose threads of a family starting during the Cromwell’s rebellion into pre-Revolutionary America, and then beyond. I imagine I will read the others eventually, if not exactly soon.
They’re an interesting historical companion, and the writing is very strong, but this book at least was a bit of a drag. It’s told in dialect, mostly, and the narration is largely atmospheric and impressionistic (more atmosphere luckily) so you feel ensconced in the setting, but there’s not THAT much story. The story itself is about a small set of neighbors and community members looking to incorporate land in what is now West Virginia….or based on the names Virginia and West Virginia.
The appeal for me is that it’s a very Virginia novel, and I have loved those since I was younger. This particular novel is full of family names and place names that are very familiar to me.
Here’s a sample:
” A little dry dust fanned up from the hard-beaten path to Jeremiah Catlett’s cabin. Here it seemed on fine, pounded yellow dirt, there on bare rocks which through the years of scuffing up the path, had been exposed, the ground packed hard around them.
Jeremiah’s dragging left foot no longer quite left the ground when he walked. It made a thin, indented trail in summer dust.”
And so on.