Out of the Mountains: Appalachian Stories

Overview

Firmly grounded in contemporary Appalachia, the stories in Meredith Sue Willis's Out of the Mountains explore the complex negotiations between longtime natives of the region and its newcomers and the rifts that develop within families over current issues such as mountaintop removal and homophobia. Always, however, the situations depicted in these stories foster a deeper understanding of the people involved, and of the place. This is not the mythic version of Appalachia, but the Appalachia of the twenty-first ...

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Out of the Mountains: Appalachian Stories

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Overview

Firmly grounded in contemporary Appalachia, the stories in Meredith Sue Willis's Out of the Mountains explore the complex negotiations between longtime natives of the region and its newcomers and the rifts that develop within families over current issues such as mountaintop removal and homophobia. Always, however, the situations depicted in these stories foster a deeper understanding of the people involved, and of the place. This is not the mythic version of Appalachia, but the Appalachia of the twenty-first century.

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Editorial Reviews

citybeat.com
A benefit of our shortened attention spans is the re-emergence of the short story. That pleasurable form of fiction, sliced thinner than a novel but at its best equally compelling, for a decade or two languished out of fashion but returns full of ginger.

In Out of the Mountains, Meredith Sue Willis gives her characters the juice of life. Some turn up in more than one story, prompting the pleasure of recognition. Willis writes about people from Appalachia’s West Virginian corner, where she herself comes from, and about people from New York, where she lives now, with a smattering of folks from elsewhere. They’re all alive on the page.

In one of my favorites here, “Pie Knob,” a Jewish New York couple and an Appalachian woman, whom we know from other stories, interact in complicated and intensely human ways, leaving the reader both sad and glad, the way life sometimes does.

Old hurts and ancient wrongs surface at a funeral in “Fellowship of Kindred Minds.” “Nineteen Sixty-Nine” and “Evenings with Dotson” are two ways to tell the same story; one is two pages long and the other 10 pages, but each has its purpose.

“Triangulation,” in structure the most sophisticated of these stories, opens the book, a mistake, I think, as it is unlike the rest. In it Willis tells us more or less what she plans to do. It would be better placed at the end, to let us see where we’ve been.

T.S. Eliot told us that “returning from our exploring” allows us “to see the place for the first time.” I think Willis could not have seen so accurately had she stayed in Appalachia. Eliot didn’t go back to St. Louis, either. What we carry with us comes in focus when we look back from a distance and it’s the looking back, I think, that Eliot had in mind. Grade: A---(Meredith Sue Willis, Ohio Univerisity Press)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821419205
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 8/17/2010
  • Series: Race, Ethnicity and Gender in Appalachia
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 182
  • Sales rank: 1,433,080
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Meredith Sue Willis is the author of more than fifteen books, including novels for adults, novels for children, collections of short stories, nonfiction about the art of writing and her most recent Ten Strategies to Write Your Novel. She teaches novel writing at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Triangulation 1

Pie Knob 14

Big Boss Is Back 33

On the Road with C.T. Savage 44

Tara White 58

Speak Well of the Dead 74

Nineteen Sixty-Nine 85

Evenings with Dotson 87

The Little Harlots 97

Scandalous Roy Critchfield 113

Fellowship of Kindred Minds 132

Elvissa and the Rabbi 152

Afterword 167

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 1, 2010

    the spirit of a place

    The striking thing about the 12 linked stories in Meredith Sue Willis' "Out of the Mountains" is that they are full of the spirit of Appalachia but empty of cliches about that much-maligned region. Yes, there are coal mines and fundamentalist religion and old-time misogyny, but we also see anarchist Emma Goldman passing by on her way to federal prison in 1918, a young man taking a girl up in a plane above New York City before he goes off to Vietnam to be killed, urban Jews settling in West Virginia and finding ingenious and sometimes humorous ways of coexisting with the locals, a teen-age girl discovering unexpected strengths as she tries to escape from a pornography ring. Some of the stories show characters at widely separate parts of their lives. Feckless motorcyclist C.T. Savage rides away from his wife, Merlee; 25 years later, when she is a nurse and he a wreck dying from lung disease, Merlee still feels enough for C.T. to help him go out in style. As a boy, Roy Critchfield is tormented by his lust for a minister's wife and his reluctant conviction that God doesn't want him to play baseball; as an adult, though trailing a dubious reputation, Roy becomes a spiritual leader himself. In all the stories, Willis is sparing with dialect and oddity, respectful of her people. Her prose, whether she's using the first or the third person, describing the present day or times gone by, is exact, unobtrusive, often amused, always authoritative. A pleasure to read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 29, 2010

    I love C.T. Savage

    I loved Meredith Sue Willis's earlier collection, In the Mountains of America, a marvel of craft, voice, and humor, exuding a deep knowledge of a people and a place-the mountains of Appalachia. Picking up her recent collection Out of the Mountains, I had misgivings. It can be difficult for a writer so profoundly rooted in a place to move on and, in a sense, grow up.

    I need not have worried. In this finely-crafted collection of linked stories, Willis has made the transition with tales that mirror the changes that have taken place in the world she knows so well. Some of her characters leave the mountains; some stay but change their ways; others enter for the first time.

    "Pie Knob" is a small but classic story of worlds colliding. In the end the bright, scrappy mountain woman and the cultured intellectuals who have found their way onto her terrain have come upon a common space.

    In my favorite story, "On the Road with C.T. Savage," the ambitious Merlee and the unreconstructed C.T. have been divorced for twenty-five years. Still, it is Merlee that C.T. looks up to help him make that one last road trip. In this world, while many things may change, the connections deep-rooted people have with one another abide.

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