Let's talk about the Summer Reading Challenge
By Deirdre Parker Smith
SALISBURY - Fall officially arrived yesterday, so summer, and the Summer Reading Challenge, are at an end.
You'll have a chance to talk about our three books, "The Cove," by Ron Rash, "A Land More Kind Than Home," by Wiley Cash, and "Paper Covers Rock," by Salisbury's own Jenny Hubbard on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. at Trinity Oaks Retirement Community.
We did things a little differently this time. We tapped Catawba College's Dr. Forrest Anderson, who teaches creative writing and composition, to do presentations on "The Cove" and "A Land More Kind Than Home."
Seventy people came to talk about Rash's dark, tragic novel set in the North Carolina mountains during World War I. Rash taught Anderson in his MFA program at the University of South Carolina, so Anderson had some insights to share. My favorite tidbit is that Rash starts out by writing a poem, then a short story and finally, a novel.
"The Cove" tells a story of a German musician who escapes from an internment camp in Hot Springs, N.C. He's found by a lonely woman who is shunned as a witch because she has a birthmark. She and her brother, who was maimed in World War I, live in a dark, isolated cove and have struggled all their lives to keep what little they have.
Rash knew there really was such a camp there, and picked up on the fear of Germans and the war that festered in isolated places like that tiny town in Madison County.
A smaller group of people turned out for a Skype session with Wiley Cash. Anderson was ready with questions for the author, who appeared on a video screen. It was almost like having him there.
Cash told us he learned to write by writing and getting rejected repeatedly. He said he didn't know he could write a novel until he did. He learned well. "A Land More Kind Than Home" has that Southern Gothic feel - characters trapped in a tragedy not of their making, people who make tremendous sacrifices to save others.
Cash uses three narrators for his book - an older woman, a child and a sheriff - because he was never satisfied with the story told from any one perspective. One pesky narrator was giving too much away and got the boot. Cash kept a calendar to keep up with who knew what and when.
The story, like Rash's, is set in Madison County. Cash knew, from living in Asheville, that Madison County is sometimes looked down on, but he found it beautiful and the people fascinating. Madison County is also where master balladeer Sheila Kay Adams lives, so there is plenty of history there, lots of families who have passed stories down for generations.
Thursday's discussion will feature Hubbard, a novelist, playwright and actress who has been seen on stage and in the wings of Salisbury stages.
"Paper Covers Rock," like Cash's book, is her first novel. Although classified as a young adult novel, it was certainly gripping enough to appeal to many adults. It, too, is set in a closed society, a boys' boarding school, and in the N.C. mountains.
Hubbard, who once taught at Woodberry Forest in Virginia, was one of few female teachers. Her book involves a female teacher and a pair of boys for whom the truth is inconvenient. It's more important to fit in, to be, as Hubbard writes, a "Good, Solid Kid."
It's a twisting story, told from student Alex's perspective, of who knows what when, and who might know something and how to keep all that secret. It's full of teen angst, teen machinations. These are indeed, above-average boys. Hubbard handles the situations deftly and captures teen emotion and motivation well.
Hubbard earned good reviews and a National Parenting Publications Award and a nomination for a school library award.
The on-stage interview will be a chance for readers to learn more about her and her writing process. Someone is bound to ask, "Where do you get your ideas?" Have your questions ready.
The final event is free and open to anyone, but it will help if you call 704-603-9204 before 5 p.m. Tuesday so Trinity Oaks can plan for chairs and refreshments. It should be an enlightening evening.
Sponsors for the challenge include Trinity Oaks Retirement Community, which provides the meeting space, refreshments and support; F&M Bank, Catawba College, Livingstone College, The Salisbury Post, Bert and Jeanne Osborne Wurster, Dr. Sheila Brownlow and Deal Safrit, Barbara and David Setzer and Marathon Business Center.