Wednesday, October 18, 2017

If the Creek Don’t Rise

If The Creek Don't RiseIf The Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I could describe this book as a metaphor, it would be a quilt that, at a close look, appears to be somewhat random pieces of fabric slapped together. With some distance, the observer realizes that the pieces are interconnected and anchored by a couple of colors and themes. With a little more distance, the observer sees how each piece contributes to the tapestry to make it a whole piece. Move very, very close (and put on your reading glasses) and the observer sees that each piece of fabric has its own texture, pattern, or design that can not be easily discerned from a distance.

The anchoring character is Sadie Blue, just married, pregnant, and getting beat again by her new husband. It is 1970 in a remote town in Appalachia (another anchoring color, whatever that might be) and the characters are introduced seamlessly. Each of the main characters gets at least one chapter to tell in first person. It is less talking and more thinking, reminiscing, and doing. Sadie paints a picture of her own perspective in this sad little town yet she has the undercurrent of goodness and hope.

We then meet Sadie’s grandmother who was Sadie many years ago. Hard life and a mean husband in an inhospitable climate has jaded her and taken much of her sunshine. She’s gray and hardened. And kind of mean. Especially to her best friend, Marris. But Gladys enlightens the reader regarding her marriage to Walter and the relationship they did not enjoy. Of course, Gladys has a secret.

Marris is optimistic regardless of the circumstances and she’s seen her share of hardship. She is the yellow sunshine colors threaded throughout the quilt with a little bit of the colors of the creek. Marris let’s Gladys know that a new teacher has been hired for the children. Her name is Kate and she’s very big and old. She’s 51.

So the story continues as the people are introduced with a perspective of another character. Then that character continues the timeline and adds depth to his or her own character. Every character is carefully fleshed out and has a story, a history, a depth that contributes to their development and relationships. I found myself gaining insight and sympathy toward all of them. That is not to say that all of them had redeeming qualities. There is a lot of shades of black and gray in this quilt. But then there are surprising bursts of yellow, red, purple, orange, and blue.

The last chapter returns to Sadie Blue. The changes are subtle yet (oxymoronic) stark. In retrospect, I felt like the story wasn’t as much about the events but more about relationships that changed a perspective that may or may not alter the future.

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