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

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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 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

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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.

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