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Clay's Quilt
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Clay's Quilt

4.6 16
by Silas House

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On a bone-chilling New Year's Day, when all the mountain roads are slick with ice, Clay's mother, Anneth, insists on leaving her husband. She packs her things, and with three-year-old Clay in tow, they inch their way toward her hometown along the treacherous mountain roads.

That journey ends in the death of Clay's mother. It's a day that comes to haunt her only


On a bone-chilling New Year's Day, when all the mountain roads are slick with ice, Clay's mother, Anneth, insists on leaving her husband. She packs her things, and with three-year-old Clay in tow, they inch their way toward her hometown along the treacherous mountain roads.

That journey ends in the death of Clay's mother. It's a day that comes to haunt her only son, who's left without a family and a history. This is the story of how Clay Sizemore, a coal miner in love with his town but unsure of his place within it, finds a family to call his own.

And it's the story of the people who become part of the life he shapes: Aunt Easter, always filled with a sense of foreboding and bound to her faith above all; Uncle Paul, quietly producing quilt after quilt; Dreama, beautiful and flighty; Evangeline, the untameable daughter of a famous gospel singer; and Alma, the fiddler whose song wends its way into Clay's heart. Together, they all help Clay to fashion a quilt of a life from what treasured pieces are around him.

Authentic and moving, Clay's Quilt is both the story of a young man's journey and of Appalachian people struggling to hold on to their heritage.

Editorial Reviews

A lovely and accomplished literary debut.
Roanoke Times
Unpretentious and clear-eyed...Silas House has crafted a tale whose joys are as legitimate as its sorrows.
...a treasure to be handed down from one reader to another.
Publisher's Weekly
Deftly written, replete with wisdom and remarkably light on sentimentality, this lovely novel makes plain the value of family...
An appealing and promising debut.
Southern Living
...the author sews a flawless seam of folks who love their home and each other.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A deep love for home suffuses this heartfelt, well-crafted debut novel set in the Kentucky hills. Clay Sizemore, a young coal miner from a big family and a small town, never doubts that he will live out his life in the place where he was born. His mother, Anneth, was killed when he was only four, and he never knew his father, but he is surrounded by the people he loves: his big-hearted, God-fearing Aunt Easter; Dreama, the beautiful cousin he loves like a sister; and Cake, his party boy best friend. Clay and Cake work hard, and play hard at the local honky-tonk, but both want more from life than work, drink and empty sex. For Clay, the future is Alma, a passionate young fiddler separated from her abusive husband and estranged from her gospel-singing parents. But the past concerns him, too: given a box of his beloved mother's possessions, he pieces together her troubled history, while his great-uncle pieces a quilt from her clothing. Violence is inescapable in a place where even Clay carries a pretty pearl-handled pistol, and his mother's violent end foreshadows a death that threatens Clay and Alma's happiness together. The Kentucky landscape is suffused with nostalgia, snow making one character yearn for the past, lonesome autumn unlocking memory's vaults. Deftly written, replete with wisdom and remarkably light on sentimentality, this lovely novel makes plain the value of family and the preciousness of familiar ground. Author tour. (Mar. 30) Forecast: Healthy regional sales are indicated for this title; handselling will help. Strong reviews in national publications should move a few copies, too. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A Kentucky author's plaintive debut tells the story of coal miner Clay Sizemore's efforts to understand and possess his own history, shattered when he was a three-year-old present at his own mother's murder. The novel segues between Clay's relationships with loving kinfolk and his growing affection for Alma Asher, the divorced woman he hopefully marries-its separate fragments intended to cohere into a "quilt" (of sorts) that will clarify the pattern of Clay's life. This is Wendell Berry territory, and House doesn't really take us anywhere we haven't already been-but his secondary characters (such as Clay's hell-raising cousin Cake and his gentle, visionary Aunt Easter) are lively and likable. And there are some stunningly beautiful moments (e.g., "When the lightning flashed, he imagined he could see all of the dead people he had ever known of, standing in line down the road"). An appealing and promising debut. Author tour

From the Publisher
“Compelling . . . Despite hardships, again and again the family and the land assert their claim on these characters, and on the reader. . . . House knows what’s important and reminds us of the values of family and home, love and loyalty.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Here is life in the hills as we enter the twenty-first century–the love of the land, the fierce loyalty to family, the church, substance abuse, and violence. . . . Silas House writes from deep within the culture and presents his world without apology or gloss.”

Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
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File size:
4 MB

Read an Excerpt


They were in a car going over Buffalo Mountain, but the man driving was not Clay's father. The man was hunched over the steering wheel, peering out the frosted window with hard, gray eyes. The muscle in his jaw never relaxed, and he seemed to have an extra, square-shaped bone on the side of his face.

"No way we'll make it without getting killed," the man said. His lips were thin and white.

"We ain't got no choice but to try now," Clay's mother,

Anneth, said. "We can't pull over and just set on the side of the road until it thaws."

Clay listened to the tires crunching through the snow and ice as they moved slowly on the winding road. It sounded as if they were driving on a highway made of broken glass. On one side of the road there rose a wall of cliffs, and on the other side was a wooden guardrail. It looked like the world dropped off after that.

They met a sharp curve and the steering wheel spun around in the man's hands. His elbows went high into the air as he tried to straighten the car. The two women in the back cried out "Oh Lord!" in unison as one was thrown atop the other to one side of the car. Anneth pressed her slender fingers deep into Clay's arms, and he wanted to scream, but then the car was righted on course. The man looked at Anneth as if it were her fault.

The women in the back had been carrying on all the way up the mountain, and now they laughed wildly at themselves for being scared. They acted like going over the crooked, ice-covered highway was the best time they had had in ages, and the man kept telling them to shut up. It seemed they lit one cigarette after another, so many that Clay couldn't tell if the mist swirling around in the cab of the car was from their smoking or their breathing.

The heater in the little car didn't work, and when one of the women hollered to the man to give it another try, the vents rattled and coughed, pushing out a chilling breeze. Clay could see his own

Meet the Author

Silas House is the author of five novels, three of which were published by Algonquin: Clay’s Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, and The Coal Tattoo. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and a former commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered. He is the winner of the E.B. White Award, The Audie Award, The Nautilus Award, The Kentucky Novel of the Year (twice), The Appalachian Book of the Year, the Hobson Medal for Literature, and many others. He was born and raised in Eastern Kentucky.

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Clay's Quilt 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I heard about this author at the recommendation of Leif Enger, who wrote PEACE LIKE A RIVER. I am so glad that I did, because I believe he is one of the best Southern authors I have ever read. He made the place so real that I feel as if I have not only been to Free Creek, Kentucky, but I have actually lived there, fallen asleep listening to its creek, smelled its coal smoke. What a beautiful novel. I can't wait for his new one, which comes out in the fall, I believe. Do youself a favor and read CLAY'S QUILT.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book. A must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love Silas House!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I read every day for hours all kinds of books. 'Clay's Quilt' is one of the best books that I have read in years! It is pure poetry that takes the reader to another place. The book just sucks you in to the mountains of Kentucky and its people.You wish that you were a part of their lives. Silas House can write!! I look forward to reading more from him in the future. What a gift he has!
Guest More than 1 year ago
My favorite book of the year. So moving, so beautifully written. I want everyone to read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first heard of Mr. House while reading a publication from Eastern Kentucky University. Because we attended the same university and I also write stories that take place in my native Kentucky, I was instantly drawn to this book. After finishing the first chapter, I knew that the characters and themes Mr. House so vividly describes not only are universal but they celebrate Kentucky life in such a way that all readers can feel bluegrass between their toes and smell tobacco hanging in the barn. Wow! Thank you Mr. House for bringing these Kentuckians to life. I want to invite Easter and Clay and Alma over for supper. They are that real.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is wonderful. I cannot wait to read his next book. House's writing is lyrical.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Vividly poetic in its description of Appalachian natural resources, heartwarming and honest in its portrayal of people linked by their love for their environs and family, Clay¿s Quilt is in the top three on my ¿re-read often¿ list. In this debut novel, Silas House deftly stitches a search for understanding and love with picturesque Appalachia. Clay Sizemore is a character any reader will quickly befriend, not only because of the tragedy of losing his mother, but because Clay is a loveable young man. House¿s prose places the reader, like a close friend, beside Clay. Whether Clay is at work in the coal mine, walking the mountainside, or partying at the local honky-tonk, we are there with him, feeling the grit of coal dust in our eyes, smelling the air on Free Mountain, or throwing down a whiskey with a beer chaser on a Saturday night. There is something to be said when a reader can feel for a story¿s rogues. Even the villains and the socially challenged characters in Clay¿s Quilt are people with whom a reader will identify. House takes us into their hearts, to the places that hurt, to those hidden areas where malice and evil ferment, torment and eventually explode with terrible consequences. Life, human and natural, pulsates through the veins of this story. Long after its first reading, ¿Clay¿s Quilt¿ will warm the reader.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Clay Sizemore's poignant search for his place in his community and his search for a family are central in this wonderful debut novel. The element that moves and underscores the action is music. This is a novel with a 'soundtrack.' The soundtrack sings of Clay's search for identity, modern Appalachia, and the children of the Post-Vietnam, War on Poverty Generation. The reader will fall in love with and be haunted by the characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An advance reader's copy of this novel showed up at the magazine where I work as copy editor and the managing editor just picked it up to see what it was about and couldn't put it down until she had finished the book. Upon her recommendation, I read it as well and have to say that it captured me, too. The characters are so real that by novel's end, they seem like people you actually know. That's the thing that really sold me and kept me invested in the novel and what the future held for these characters. Even though I've never even been to Kentucky, now I feel as if I have and I have a better understanding for the people that live there. I am rarely moved to tears by a book, but I have to admit that this one made me mist up a bit. It's strange in that it's a book with a male lead character and very male themes, but it is also very sensitive and wonderfully lyrical. I bet it makes you cry, too. Buy this for sometime when you can just sit back and take your time enjoying it. Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't expect much out of this book after purchasing it off of the clearance rack at a local book store for two dollars. I was SO WRONG. I actually felt like I became part of the book. I have read it a few more times just for pure enjoyment. I must-read for everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an easy read, but has a pretty predictable plot. Lots of regional issues are in the book, but they are not explored very deeply. If you don't live in the area or know much about Appalachia, you won't learn much from this book. There's not much character development. Clay's a good old boy, but there's not much reason to really care about him. Most of the characters are boring and predictable. I've read tons of books from southern authors and most do a much better job exploring the cultural issues of the region.