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Love and Lamentby John Milliken Thompson
Synopses & Reviews
A dauntless heroine coming of age at the turn of the twentieth century confronts the hazards of patriarchy and prejudice, and discovers the unexpected opportunities of World War I
Set in rural North Carolina between the Civil War and the Great War, Love and Lament chronicles the hardships and misfortunes of the Hartsoe family.
Mary Bet, the youngest of nine children, was born the same year that the first railroad arrived in their county. As she matures, against the backdrop of Reconstruction and rapid industrialization, she must learn to deal with the deaths of her mother and siblings, a deaf and damaged older brother, and her father’s growing insanity and rejection of God.
In the rich tradition of Southern gothic literature, John Milliken Thompson transports the reader back in time through brilliant characterizations and historical details, to explore what it means to be a woman charting her own destiny in a rapidly evolving world dominated by men.
"Born in 1887, the year the railroad comes to fictional Haw County, N.C., Mary Bet Hartsoe is tough, humble, independent, and enduring — a true North Carolina heroine. Thompson's second novel (after The Reservoir) follows Mary Bet as she grows from a curious six-year-old who mistakes a circuit-riding preacher for the Devil to a survivor of war, disease, love, and progress. By 15, Mary Bet has seen her mother and her eight older siblings die, including beloved deaf brother Siler, who perishes in a puzzling accident. She is left alone to care for her father, Cicero, a Civil War veteran and storeowner now suffering physical and mental deterioration. Eventually she takes a job as a courthouse clerk and sometime deputy working for her cousin; after he leaves to fight in World War I, Mary Bet becomes North Carolina's first female sheriff. Thompson perfectly captures the Carolina Piedmont's sights, sounds, and flavors and convincingly depicts the turn-of-the-century South — haunted by the Civil War, and embracing old-time religion and new-fangled machinery and ideas. Underlying and uplifting his narrative is Mary Bet's vivid point of view: hiding while her grandmother breaks up her grandfather's drunken poker game, helping the sheriff chase down moonshiners, watching Cicero and Able, the son of slaves, try to grow bananas in North Carolina's climate. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“A seamlessly told and scrupulously detailed history of the Hartsoe clan of Haw County, North Carolina, Love and Lament is that rare novel that brings the gritty, rural past to vivid life. I could very nearly smell the moonshine (the moonshiners too!). Pass a few hours with Mary Bet Hartsoe and family. You won’t regret it.” —T. R. Pearson, author of Jerusalem Gap and A Short History of a Small Place
“Love and Lament is an ambitious and exhilarating novel of the South at the turn of the last century. It is a book you’ll devour and savor. It will remind you why you started reading novels in the first place — to be enchanted, to be carried away from your world and dropped into a world more substantial and incandescent. John Milliken Thompson knows that every story is many stories, and he handles this complex tale of romance, family, race relations, and secrets with intelligence, grace, and tenderness. He has breathed life into Mary Bet Hartsoe and her benighted family, and they will breathe life into you.” John Dufresne, author of No Regrets and Coyote
"An appealing historical novel that blends gothic and plainly romantic themes." Kirkus
About the Author
John Milliken Thompson is the author of The Reservoir (Other Press, 2011). His articles have appeared in Smithsonian, Washington Post, Islands, and other publications, and his short stories have been published in Louisiana Literature, South Dakota Review, and other literary journals. He holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Arkansas and lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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