Where the Lilies Bloom

Where the Lilies Bloom

3.9 58
by Bill Cleaver, Jim Spanfeller, Vera Cleaver

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Mary Call has promised her dying father to keep her brother and sisters together forever on the mountain, and never to take any help from strangers. She is determined to keep her word. No matter what. At first she is sure she can manage. Romey, Ima Dean, and Devola help gather herbs to sell in town; the riches of the mountains will surely keep the family clothed


Mary Call has promised her dying father to keep her brother and sisters together forever on the mountain, and never to take any help from strangers. She is determined to keep her word. No matter what. At first she is sure she can manage. Romey, Ima Dean, and Devola help gather herbs to sell in town; the riches of the mountains will surely keep the family clothed and fed. But then winter comes, fast and furious, and Mary Call has to learn that the land where the lilies bloom is also a cruel and unforgiving place, and it may take more than a promise to keep her family together.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Mary Call, a 14-year-old girl in rural North Carolina, has a serious problem. Her father, a dirt-poor tenant farmer, is dying. On his deathbed, he makes Mary Call vow to keep the family together and protect her "cloudy-headed" older sister, Devola, from marrying their "ignorant and greedy" landlord, Kiser. With intelligence and steely determination, Mary Call shoulders a burden that would crush a lesser soul. She teaches Devola, younger brother Romey and little sister Ima Dean 'wildcrafting' (the harvesting of wild medicinal plants) to earn enough money to survive. When her father dies, May Call buries him and keeps his death a secret so the children won't be sent to an orphanage. Mary Call deftly sidesteps nosy townspeople, works tirelessly to keep her siblings' spirits up, and begins a dangerous game with Kiser-allowing him just enough courtship with Devola to keep gifts of food coming, but always dodging a marriage commitment. Mary Call's story is beautifully written, evoking not only the physical hardship of the children's lives but also the terrible emotional toll on Mary Call. Eventually, Mary Call learns that sometimes a promise should be set aside. Given the book's overall intensity, some may find the ending a letdown. 1989 (orig. 1969), HarperCollins Publishers, Turner

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Trophy Keypoint Book Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.56(d)
920L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Once in some near-forgotten time a traveler, making his way across these mountains on foot, wandered into our valley which is known as Trial. Warm and dusty and overwearied, he came to our door and eased his heavy pack and asked for refreshment and Devola brought him a pail of water from our spring, pure and so, cold it made him clench his teeth.

"Where have you been?" we asked.

He raised a khaki arm and pointed first to Sugar Boy that rises to our east and then to Old Joshua that lifts darkly to our west. "Up there. "

"What for?"

"For the memory."

Devola thought this a funny answer. She laughed and ran down into the yard and hid herself behind a flowering rhododendron and peered out at us through its white, lacy veil.

I said, "Don't pay her any mind. She's cloudy-headed. Why did you say you had been to Sugar Boy and Old Joshua for the memory? That wasn't a real answer, was it?"

"Yes," replied the traveler. "That was a real answer.

"They're pretty now, " I said, "becauseeverything is in bloom. Trillium and shadbushand the violets and all the other spring beautiesbut we've just come through a terrible winter.There was snow six feet deep in this valleywith drifts up to ten. Everything was frozen;we thought it would never thaw. Romey andI couldn't even get to school."

"Who is Romey?" inquired the traveler.

"He's my little brother. In the winter when everything's frozen I hate the mountains. Then they're ugly."

The traveler said, "Today at noon I leaned my back against a cloud and ate my lunch. And afterward, coming down the slopes, I saw a lake of blue flowers and then a long, widescarf of deep maroon ones. This is fair land; the fairest I have ever seen."

I never saw the traveler again. An hour later he disappeared into the mists that sometimes cover this valley in the spring. But I have never forgotten what he said-that this land was fair land, the fairest of them all. This is where the lilies bloom.

Like I say, Devola is cloudy-headed and this is one thing I cannot understand because none of the rest of us Luthers is that way but Devola is for sure, so each day I have to explain the whole of our existence to her. Her confidence in my ability to do this is supreme though there are four whole years' difference between her age of eighteen and mine of fourteen.

Devola cannot remember twice around a gimlet. When we go, of a morning, to the lower slopes of Old Joshua or Sugar Boy to gather witch hazel leaves she always acts like she's never seen any of it before.

"Look!" she exclaims. "Look at how pretty it all is. Don't you think it's pretty, Mary Call?"

"Yes, it's pretty but we haven't got the time to stand around and gawk now, Devola. Oh, here we are. Here's where we left off yesterday.

Aren't these leaves nice and thick? Shall we fill your bag first or mine?"

Devola shook her bag open and looked down into its emptiness. "It don't differ. Either way it's just plain work." She moved around to the north side of the witch hazel bush and began snatching the smooth, wavy-toothed leaves from its limbs. "How many pounds did we get yesterday?"

"Three. Don't put in twigs, Devola. just leaves. "

Devola fished two twigs out and discarded them. "How much is that?"

"Oh, forty-five cents, maybe."

"If that man at the drug company or Mr. Connell from the General Store had to come out here and do this for just one morning I'll bet it'd be a sight more than that. People are stingy with money, aren't they, Mary Call?"

"Some are."

A lance of clear sunlight wavering through the overhanging boughs touched Devola's face and hair. She stepped back away from it and turned and looked across the valley. In the distance Kiser Pease, high on his tractor, was creating clouds of furious, black dust. Between him and us the lonesome fields were a bright shimmering yellow.

Devola said, "Kiser wants to marry me again but still Roy Luther says no. I told him it didn't differ to me one way or the other but that's all he says. No."

"You don't know anything about marriage, Devola. Aren't you going to help me pick any more?"

Devola came back to the bush., "Kiser's got a nice house. I just love his kitchen. Everything in it's yellow. Of course, he doesn't keep it good but I would. I'd wash everything every day.

"You would, huh?"


I referred to one of Kiser's superstitions, a keyhole opening he had made near the top of his chimney as an exit for witches. I asked, "Would you wash his witch's keyhole, too? Or would you plug it up so no more witches could get in or out?"

Devola smoothed her long cascade of glowing hair. "I wouldn't bother his keyhole. His witches wouldn't bother me. I just love his house. just think; all of us could live in it if I married Kiser.

Meet the Author

While Vera and Bill Cleaver were best known and loved for Where the Lilies Bloom, they enjoyed a prolific writing career. Their other titles include: Delpha Green & Company, Dust of the Earth, I Would Rather Be a Turnip, The Kissimmee Kid, The Mimosa Tree, Trial Valley, and The Whys and Wherefores of Littabelle Lee.

While Vera and Bill Cleaver were best known and loved for Where the Lilies Bloom, they enjoyed a prolific writing career. Their other titles include: Delpha Green & Company, Dust of the Earth, I Would Rather Be a Turnip, The Kissimmee Kid, The Mimosa Tree, Trial Valley, and The Whys and Wherefores of Littabelle Lee.

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Where the Lilies Bloom 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 59 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book when I was a pre-teen. It's a wonderful story about the strength of family ties and the enduring spirit of children. I picked this book because it reminded me a little of 'Christy' and 'Julie', which are perfect for pre-teen girls. This story also depicts life in Appalachia and is filled with wholesome values.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Its a good book but I just don't like all the talking and nothing big happen. If you don't like a lot of talking in a book then don't read this book. Its good for a quick read. Overall it was okay.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¡°Where The Lilies Bloom¡± is told from the perspective of fourteen-year-old Mary Call Luther. As the reader reads the story and experiences it in his mind, he can see the trials and hardships that befall her family with both pride and compassion. This story follows the struggles of Mary Call Luther and her siblings, as they struggled through the harsh Appalachian winter after the death of their father, Roy Luther. Mary Call was a tough, proud, sensible and stubborn person, and unlike her sisters, she did not dwell on beauty or sweetness, but on the practical necessities of life. Mary Call lived in a rundown sharecropper house in the Great Smokey Mountains in the Trial Valley of North Carolina together with eighteen-year-old sister ¡°cloudy-headed¡± Devola Luther, her five-year-old sister Ima Dean and her ten-year-old brother Romey Luther. The Great Smoky Mountains is where people are free, proud, and achingly poor. She was a determined and resourceful girl who struggled to preserve the dignity and independence of her family against frightening obstacles. She and her brother buried their father to avoid the cost of a preacher and an undertaker. She concealed his death to prevent the neighbors from sending the four Luther children to a charity home. One day, Mary Call found a book on wildcrafting left by her late mother and so, the family took up wildcrafting to make a living and learned the value of resourcefulness in the face of extreme poverty. The clash of quixotic mountain civilization and the reality of the world, in which young children are orphaned provides plenty of depth in a story that might at first appear set: orphans suffer, fear discovery, and find help from a kind-hearted affluent person who had appeared to be an enemy at first. The conflict in this story is not just with the rudiments and the outside world alone. Mary Call must overcome not just nature and apparent enemies but also her own blind loyalty to her misguided and proud dad, whose pride almost condemns his children in a life of misery and suffering.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
“Where the Lilies Bloom” by Vera and Bill Cleaver is a very structured book. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone, because it was just about the everyday life of a mountain girl named Mary Call and her family. It was very boring. I did not enjoy the book at all. I agree with “anonymous” who posted on December 18, 2007, because nothing big happens in the book; it’s only told from the perspective of Mary Call which makes it very hard to know what the other characters are thinking or feeling. It doesn’t keep the reader wanting more. This book isn’t dramatic at all, and it had no irony, suspense or mystery. There was barely any action or comedy which made the story very flat and the language was very hard to understand. Sometimes it was formal, and sometimes it just sounded odd. The imagery was very good, but that was the only thing special about the book. It makes you feel like you’re on the mountains with them, but you really don’t want to be because it’s very boring. My favorite character is Mary Call, because she is very hard working, and she sticks to her promises. She kept the family alive on the mountains, and she promised her Roy Luther-her dad that she will keep the family on the mountain and she did. She teaches a lesson in the book to always work hard and stick to your promises. “We discovered them and it was a fine education” (Cleaver 209). This is the best quote because it is showing that Mary Call and her family have finally seen the benefits of living in the mountains, and how to live there. This quote also refers to Mary Call finding herself and her capabilities.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this book teaches you alot of life lessons that can help you many times in life. This book can teach you so much about the struggles of the people in the Appalachian mountains. This book also has very interesting questions like should you ever go bacck on a promise and i think you can learn alot from this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book wasn't even interesting, I like books where something unexpected happenings. The book didnt have anything that made it unique, or interesting. I do not recommend it to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
we had to read this book in my class it wasnt as interesting as i thought it would be, but i thought that this book was teaching a lot of lessons like you should keep your promises and obey your parents.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i think that this book shows great leadership to the people that in the future will read it. Marry Call had to go through alot just to survive with her brothers and sisters. i think that this book was very good and i will tell it to other people
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book had action, family values, and what a book needs to be a best seller. However, I thought that is was... a little boring. I had to read it for a book report, and think that if you need a good book to do a report on, this is the book to do it on. I don't think its something that people read for leisure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I hated the ending. Some of the details weren't very clear. Ok plot, not very interesting. Long and boring
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book doesn't throw twist and turns but it sure does make it so you don't want to put it down!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book as a child and have read it many times. It is a great book! Every girl at the age of 10- 14 should read it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i thought this book was great.. All ages would enjoy this book.. I had to read it in my highschool years and I tell my children about it now. This is the best book ever! If I were u I would read this book ASAP
Guest More than 1 year ago
I believe that Where the Lilies Bloom is one of the best books I have ever read. The characters were very different and the auther explained them very well. The setting was very original being in the mountains plus the mountains names being old Joshua and Sugar Boy. The plot stuck to what it started with, Like Roy Luther working the land and once he died his kids did what they were told. Also they found a wildcrafters guide in Cosby Luthers chest of stuff and they stuck to that too. The theme was probably that if you keep tring harder each time you'll get closer to your goal.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Where the Lilies Bloom is a good book if you want to see how mountain life can be and what it takes to survive. The author expresses the setting very well. It feels as if you are really there. The plot was easy to follow and interesting enough to make you want to find out what happens next. The characters were believable and had faults, same as we do. Overall this book was easy to comprehend, interesting, and descriptive.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that Where the lilies Bloom was avery good book. Vera and Bill explained the characters pretty well. They said that ImaDean is about 5, Romey is about 10, Marry Call is either 14 or 15, and Devola is 18. Roy Luther is 40 or above and Kiser Pease is 40 or above. The setting was mostly at home, in the city getting materials, at school, wild crafting in Old Joshua or Sugar Boy, and at the hospital. I thought that the plot was very understandable because they explained how the story went. The Overall Rating that I gave it was a 4. The Theme was trying to tell us that mountain people have a harder life in the mountains.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Where the Lilies Bloom' was a very interesting book to read. It had lots of problems the main characters had to solve. The authors described the main characters very well, espicially Mary Call Luther. They also described each character's feelings, personality, and their actions. The setting of the story was a great place to happen. The story wouldn't really go with a largely populated city or a tropical island as its setting. I sometimes imagined I was there myself. I was mixed up sometimes with the plot of the story. The authors had one idea and then they'd jump to another. My overall rating was a 4.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The charter in Where the lilies bloom were well explained but, on occasion there were fusy moments.The characters in this book where (starting from youngest to oldest)Devola-18,Mary call-14,Romey-10,Ima dean-5. These are all the children that had it rough in this story but,they made it through life. For the setting you always knew where things were taking place. Like most of the time exact description. One thing is that I wasnt very sure of the plot. The theme was great and, I think that the message the author is trying to get across is that you cant always have what you want in that moment in time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Where the Lilies Bloom is the story of a 14 year old girl named Mary C all Luther and her struggle to keep her family going after her father dies. I would reccomend this book to any one who is looking to be sucked into mountain life. The author explains the characters with every one with own personalities and uniqeness. When I read this book I could picture every detail of the plains and the mountains. The plot of this book was exciting and kept me hanging at the end of every chapter. For an overall rating I would give this book a 4 out of 5. If ther is a lesson to get across I think it is if you try hard enough you can accomplish anything.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Where the lilies bloom is a great book. Most of the actions were positive, negative, odd and weird. Mary Call Luther was the narrator and had a really rough life. Some things didn't help with that . Mary Call made promises to her daddy, Roy Luther, but most she never kept. One promise that was broke was that Devola ( a cloudy headed 18 year old) would never marry Kiser Pease, but that happened. Another was that she should never accept charity. Most of there lives were pretty bad but they got through it just fine.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think that Vera and Bill Cleaver did an amazing job of explaining the characters feelings and thoughts. The choice of setting was apparently thought over long and hard, because it was definitley a good idea to set it in the ' Olden Days,' and in the mountins. The plot of this book was perfect! Not too boring, but not at all too exciting or suspensful. The theme of this book is that you should not make promises that you cannot keep, and boy is that ever a peice of good advice!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Where the Lilies Bloom' is a great book! It is very realistic and descriptive. The authors did a good job describing the characters and the setting. The characters seemed very realistic, and many details were given about them. The setting was described very well, and the details made it very clear to you. The plot was also strong. It was easy to follow and understand. It didn't get confusing, and nothing seemed out of order. The theme of this book was also good. I agree with the theme, which is 'bad things happen, but things do get better.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mary Call promises her sick father to take care if the family. Her father dies and Mary Call tries to hide it from everyone. She goes nuts from all the pressure that was put on her. I liked this book enough to read it again, because the characters all stuck to their part. Also in the video. The plot was good. The theme or lesson I learned was that life isn't all that easy all the time.