By November 4, 2011 1 Comments Read More →

Silas House Party

In Silas House’s debut novel, the quilt that the title character is piecing together is his own life. The incident that dominates Clay’s life happened when he was only four years old: his mother, Anneth, was killed on an icy Appalachian mountain. Despite their limited time together, Clay has grown up much like Anneth: spiritual but unable to participate in organized religion, good with people but possessed by a wild streak, fond of his family but trying to find his own way, and in love with music. Although he’s now a young man, a miner, Clay still feels unrooted. He doesn’t know who his father was, what exactly happened to his mother, or how to handle her legacy.

Over the course of the book, Clay falls in love with Alma, a young fiddler, and she shares his feelings, but is still trying to escape a marriage to an abusive and dangerous man.  He’s also trying to help his cousin Dreama as she struggles through a youthful marriage and pregnancy and form adult relationships with aunts and uncles. Clay also has to figure out how to move from wild carousing with his best friend Cake. Cake’s reclusive mother also figures into the tale.

There are lots of reasons to love Clay’s Quilt. House builds realistic tension and suspense with ease. If you’re like me, you’ll be on pins and needles wondering if his tale will end in violence and tragedy or something happier. House’s appreciation for the Appalachian landscape, music, religion and people is lovingly on display on almost every page. Those who love writers like Lee Smith, Wendell Berry, or Reynolds Price will savor this book. On a darker side, he understands the toll that abuse can take on families, and writes about it with eloquence.

House has gone on to write two more novels about the Appalachians, all of which are connected. The other two novels, A Parchment of Leaves and The Coal Tattoo, both address earlier generations of people from the same community, but all three can be appreciated on their own, and any of the books would make a good book group choice.  You might also consider Chinaberry, a historical novel about migrant workers by James Still which House edited into shape after Still’s death. He’s also written successful nonfiction, 2009’s Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal. No matter which of these works your group chooses, you’ll have a good discussion and get to know one of our best American writers.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

1 Comment on "Silas House Party"

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  1. kgordon3@roadrunner.com' Kate Z says:

    I just finished this book and really enjoyed it. I loved the writing and imagery in this book.

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