Clay’s entire life has been shrouded in violence, even when Clay himself wasn’t very violent. He grew up in the mountains of Kentucky. His aunt lived there. His uncle lived there. His cousin lived there. All of Clay’s entire family lived there, except for his mother and his father. They had both died years before, both in violent circumstances.
Clay’s family raised him the best they could, which was pretty good considering the family didn’t have a lot of money, especially as poor mountain folk went, and that Clay had a bad beginning. Clay grew up well though. He got his own rental house and started working in the coal mines. He is friends with Cake, who is the son of his mother’s best friend.
Cake and Clay spend almost all their free time together, that is, until Clay meets Alma. Alma plays the most beautiful fiddle music Clay has ever heard. At first, Alma doesn’t want to date Clay because she’s still technically married, but is waiting on a divorce, and is the South after all. Clay doesn’t let this deter him. The two begin dating, but their courtship is not without problems.
Meanwhile, other members of Clay’s family have similar issues. His cousin, Dreama, leaves her husband after only a few months because he cheats on her. Both Dreama’s former husband and Alma’s former husband think they have some claim on their former wives, but the womens’ families rally around them and prove otherwise.
One of Clay’s uncles likes to quilt, of all things, and he gives Clay something special that’s a piece of Clay’s history.
What I liked
I read one of Silas’ other books and I was very pleased and decided that this book would be good as well. I was not disappointed; it is a good book and its subject matter is rather appropriate to my life at the moment.
Silas captures life in the Appalachian mountains. People live in hollers. They live by creeks. People can tell where you live, depending on what creek you live near, at least, that’s how it was where I grew up. In my county, you lived near Town Creek, Bean Creek, White Creek, Blue Creek, Shoal Creek, Mossy Creek, or Dick’s Creek; no, I don’t know who Dick was or why he had a creek named after him. Silas’s settings are so familiar.
The people Silas creates in his stories are like people you would know. I can imagine the trailers sitting on the hillsides and the people sitting by the rivers watching the water pass by. I can imagine the rough Honky-Tonk, Silas writes about in this book. For setting and character Silas gets an A+ in my book.
What I didn’t like
Silas captures people of the South perfectly, perhaps too perfectly. Alma and Silas have all the problems they do with Alma’s ex, and the people around them, because of the attitudes people of the South have about religion and marriage. There are still people, all over the South, that believe if you get married, you’re married. There is nothing either spouse can do to the other to warrant divorce in their eyes. They would probably accept you “accidentally” killing your spouse over you divorcing them. There is a reason the song “Goodbye Earl” was so popular some years back, after all.
Look here–a marriage license is a piece of paper. The true marriage is a covenant between yourself and your spouse, no matter what sex your spouse may happen to be; I don’t even care if they’re the same sex as you. A covenant is a two-way promise. You keep your end and they keep their end. If one of you don’t keep up your end, you’ve broken that promise, that covenant. It really doesn’t matter if you still have the piece of paper that says you’re married or not.
There are bigoted, wrong-headed, and stubborn people, especially in the South, who believe you can never break that covenant; newsflash–you can. You cheat on them? You broke your covenant. You beat them? You broke your covenant? You abuse them emotionally, sexually, etc.? You broke your covenant. You have an addiction that causes them misery? You broke your covenant. A marriage is only a marriage if both people are striving to keep up their end of the deal. You can’t go out and do terrible things to a person and expect them to keep up their side. That would be called a double-standard, my friend.
This isn’t to say you can’t forgive a person, because you totally can. If your spouse did break their covenant, but they’re truly sorry and they actually change, not willing to change, but actually change, then you and she, he, whomever, can repair your covenant, put some tape on that piece of paper and laminate it, metaphorically. If they say they’re sorry, but don’t do anything to back it up, they’re not changing and they’re not repairing the covenant which they broke.
Getting back to the story, Alma’s husband thinks he still has a claim over her even though he was abusive and controlling, and she’s already been moved out for months. So in this case, Alma’s husband broke his claim over Alma himself by being a jerk. There are people in Alma’s life who tell her that she can’t divorce him and that they’ll look down upon her if she does. That’s awfully sad, but you would be absolutely astonished at the amount of people in the South who expect a woman, or a man, to put up with an abusive situation for the rest of their lives just because they married someone in the first place. They’ll tell you to “pray to Jesus,” and all manner of platitudes, but when a person’s heart is hard, that doesn’t stop abuse from happening. It seems like we would have more care for our fellow men and women.
Silas, if you ever read this, you did a wonderful job at capturing the South both in setting and attitude.
What do you think about people with a “stick it out” no matter what attitude?
Are those “stick it out” people stronger for having lived through an abusive marriage, or are they broken?