Sharyn McCrumb - "The Rosewood Casket"
New English Library Pbk ( 0 340 64690 X) £5.99
The latest in her series of novels set in Appalachia, The Rosewood Casket is, once again, a fascinating story built around a small community in the mountain country once inhabited by the Cherokee Indians. Her writing brings to the reader a sure sense of the authors love of this area and knowledge and understanding of its history, both of the land and the people who make their homes in these mountains. She traces a faultless line, linking what happened to the Cherokee to what is happening now to the small mountain farmers at the mercy of real estate developers, greedy for the huge profits to be made from city people, tired of urban asphalt , eager for a place with views of hills ablaze with spring flowers.
Its good to meet some of the familiar characters from the previous novels, to learn more about them and to be introduced to new ones. In this story Sharon McCrumb focuses on the family of Randall Stargill, an old man dying in his mountain home. His four sons gather and proceed to carry out his request to be buried in a coffin which they are to build themselves from "seasoned rosewood laid by in the barn loft" ready for this time. While the men plane the wood the women sew a burial quilt made from scraps of material from the clothes of his loved ones - a beautiful idea - " Like that Dolly Parton song The Coat of Many Colours", says Kelley.
When Nora Bonesteel, the wise woman who can see into the future, comes to the house carrying a small rosewood casket which she says must be buried with the old man, secrets of the past come to light and a tragic crime is exposed. Crimes of a different nature are taking place now though, and Sheriff Spencer Arrowoods heart is not really in the action he must take. This is a moving story, told with great skill - an absorbing read.
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