front cover of “. . . And Ladies of the Club”
“. . . And Ladies of the Club”
Helen Hooven Santmeyer
The Ohio State University Press, 1980
This New York Times best seller by Helen Hooven Santmyer recounts the lives of a group of women who start a study club in a small town in southwestern Ohio in 1868. Over the years, the club evolves into an influential community service organization in the town. Numerous characters are introduced in the course of the novel but primary are Anne Gordon and Sally Rausch who, as the book begins, are new graduates of the Waynesboro Female Seminary. The novel covers decades of their lives—chronicling the two women’s marriages and those of their children and grandchildren. Santmyer focuses not just on the lives of the women in the club, but also their families and friends and the politics and developments in their small town and the larger world.
In this longest and most ambitious of Santmyer’s books, there is—as with all of her previous work—a poignant sense of a past made present again through an acute sensibility, of human life and experience as somehow cumulative, and of lives and events, largely fugitive and forgotten, as captured and transformed as the stuff of her poetry.
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Against a Darkening Sky
Janet Lewis
Ohio University Press, 1985

Against a Darkening Sky was originally published in 1943. Set in a semirural community south of San Francisco, it is the story of an American mother of the mid-1930s and the sustaining influence she brings, through her own profound strength and faith, to the lives of her four growing children.

Scottish by birth, but long a resident of America, Mary Perrault is married to a Swiss-French gardener. Their life in South Encina, though anything but lavish, is gay, serene, and friendly. As their children mature and the world outside, less peaceful and secure than the Perrault home, begins to threaten the equilibrium of their tranquil lives, Mrs. Perrault becomes increasingly aware of a moral wilderness rising from the physical wilderness which her generation has barely conquered.

Her struggle to influence, while not invading the lives of her children, is the focus of this novel of family life during the Depression years.

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All Coyote's Children
Bette Lynch Husted
Oregon State University Press, 2018
Jack and Annie Fallon had been living what seemed the ideal life with their son Riley, spending the school year in Portland, where Jack was a professor of Native American history, and summers at Jack’s family ranch in northeastern Oregon, on land surrounded by the Umatilla Indian Reservation. But a good way of life can disappear almost overnight, as the Umatilla, Cayuse, and Walla Walla peoples already know. Now the teenage Riley is in rehab, Jack has disappeared without a trace into the remote wilderness, and Annie is recovering from her own hospitalization following a mental health crisis.

Still fragile, a bereft Annie returns to the ranch, where she is befriended by Leona, a Umatilla-Cayuse neighbor. Leona, as it turns out, has a long connection to the family that even Jack never knew about. At the time of his disappearance, Jack had been grappling with his family’s legacy—with the conflicts and consequences of white settlement of native ground. Three generations before he was born, the family ranch was taken from the Umatilla reservation through the Allotment Act. Jack’s mother died when he was six, but his father’s stern presence still cast a shadow on the land.

“Survival is hard sometimes,” Leona says, but with her help, Annie is able to bring Riley home from rehab and begin the work of healing their small family, learning, season by season, how to go on living without Jack. Leona, Riley’s friends Alex and Mattie, and old neighbors Gus and Audrey become a larger family for Annie as they share the stories that connect them—long-silenced stories from both cultures that could solve the mystery of Jack’s disappearance.

In prose that is lyrical and clear-eyed, All Coyote’s Children weaves an unforgettable tale of cultures and families caught in the inescapable web of who they are and what they have inherited.
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The Art of the Break
Mary Wimmer
University of Wisconsin Press, 2022
Charlotte “Charlie” Sobczak finds the most comfort in making cheese—a craft she learned at the side of her father, Karl Mayer. In the wake of his untimely death, she and her daughter, Lucy, return to her rural hometown of Falls River, Wisconsin. With her marriage to Rick floundering, and still grieving the childhood loss of her sister and mother to polio and depression, she decides to pour all her efforts into reopening the family’s Morgan Cheese Factory. 

Hyperaware of her own childhood losses and the challenges posed by Rick’s PTSD and heavy drinking, Charlie strives to build a stable home for Lucy. Her degree in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin gives her a leg up, and the quiet joys of working at the cheese vat provide a deep, healing peace that points the way toward happiness.

But Falls River is too narrow-minded to accept a female business owner, and Charlie is ill-prepared for the pettiness and conventions of small-town life. When debts come due, including a lien against her family’s land, she must quickly figure out who is on her side—and how to keep her dreams alive.
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Bear County, Michigan
Stories
John Counts
Northwestern University Press, 2025

Following desperate characters in desperate circumstances in the rural Midwest

In these colorful, darkly comic stories, veteran journalist and crime reporter John Counts takes readers to an often-ignored part of the country: a fictional Great Lakes coastal town in northern Michigan defined by beauty and bleakness. The cast of characters in these connected stories ranges from addicts to backwoods misfits to ruined lumber families, all bound together by their desire to obtain something just out of reach. Big Frank breaks out of a rehab facility trying to outrun grief. The women in the village of Brotherhood grapple with sterility resulting from an environmental calamity. A local politician must convince her mother to leave a nudist colony. And in the final, sweeping story, a splinter group from the local tribe attempts to reclaim its ancestral land by force. The people of Bear County and their predicaments encompass the wildly original and yet totally ordinary truths about American life off the beaten track.

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Bratwurst Haven
Stories
Rachel King
West Virginia University Press, 2022
2023 Colorado Book Award Winner, Literary Fiction
“An excellent collection that’s likely to appeal to fans of Alice Munro and Tobias Wolff.” —Kirkus Reviews


It’s almost a decade after the Great Recession, and in Colorado, St. Anthony Sausage has not recovered. Neither have its employees: a laid-off railway engineer, an exiled computer whiz, a young woman estranged from her infant daughter, an older man with cancer who lacks health care. As these low-wage workers interact under the supervision of the factory’s owner and his quietly rebellious daughter, they come to understand that in America’s postindustrial landscape, although they may help or comfort each other, they also have to do what’s best for themselves.

Over the course of these twelve interrelated stories, Rachel King gives life to diverse, complex, and authentic characters who are linked through the sausage factory and through their daily lives in a vividly rendered small town in Boulder County. The internal and external struggles of Bratwurst Haven’s population are immediately and intimately relatable and resonant: these people seek answers within the world they inhabit while questioning what it means to want more from their lives.
 
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Camp Nine
A Novel
Vivienne Schiffer
University of Arkansas Press, 2011
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the U.S. military to ban anyone from certain areas of the country, with primary focus on the West Coast. Eventually the order was used to imprison 120,000 people of Japanese descent in incarceration camps such as the Rohwer Relocation Center in remote Desha County, Arkansas. This time of fear and prejudice (the U.S. government formally apologized for the relocations in 1982) and the Arkansas Delta are the setting for Camp Nine. The novel's narrator, Chess Morton, lives in tiny Rook Arkansas. Her days are quiet and secluded until the appearance of a "relocation" center built for what was, in effect, the imprisonment of thousands of Japanese Americans. Chess's life becomes intertwined with those of two young internees and an American soldier mysteriously connected to her mother's past. As Chess watches the struggles and triumphs of these strangers and sees her mother seek justice for the people who briefly and involuntarily came to call the Arkansas Delta their home, she discovers surprising and disturbing truths about her family's painful past.
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COME BACK IRISH
WENDY RAWLINGS
The Ohio State University Press, 2001
Nine inhabitants of a sleepy Irish seaside town tell what they know about a visitor from out of town who is rumored to be both attractive and dangerous. A young mother in an affluent Long Island community finds herself strangely drawn to the woman she has hired as her housekeeper. After her small business venture fails, a woman is forced to move back in with her parents and discovers they aren't the couple she thought they were at all. In fourteen expertly crafted stories, Wendy Rawlings chronicles with comic sympathy what happens when American women and Irish men, parents and children, employers and employees, hurtle toward each other and crash headlong into cultural or generational roadblocks. Like the American in the title story, who can imagine only a "litter of claddagh rings and Erin go bragh, the high-stepping of Riverdance on videocassette" until she gets on a plane and goes to Ireland, Rawlings's fiction entreats us to toss out the picture-perfect images we have of American consumer culture, Irish tourist towns, and the institution of marriage and enter the world of her fictions—more contradictory, troubling, and true.
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DANCE UNTO THE LORD
GEORGE DELL
The Ohio State University Press, 2001

George Dell’s Dance unto the Lord is a compelling fusion of history and fiction. Set in 1848 to 1852, when Ohio was considered to be the West, Dance unto the Lord transports the readers to Union Village, a Shaker community in southwestern Ohio. The novel traces the coming of age of Richard and Ruth, young people who wish to marry but are forbidden to do so by Richard’s parents. In desperation, Richard runs away to Cincinnati. Ruth, too, leaves her family. She settles in Union Village and eventually becomes a teacher at the Shaker school. Torn between her desire for freedom and the security of life with the Shakers, Ruth becomes increasingly more immersed in the Shaker society while dreaming of Richard and a life outside the community. Meanwhile, through his experiences with an ill-fated blacksmith’s shop and its owners, Richard learns that life in the city can be complicated and painful.

As he traces Richard’s and Ruth’s experiences, Dell vividly re-creates the texture of rural and city life in mid-nineteenth-century Ohio, providing a fascinating, well-researched account of a long-gone era. Dance unto the Lord provides wonderfully detailed descriptions of a Shaker community and life style. This book will be compelling reading for anyone interested in the time period, the Shakers, or simply a good story.

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Fire Scars
A Novel
John B. Wright
University of Nevada Press, 2023

In John B. Wright’s debut environmental mystery, Matt Solberg is charged with discovering who is lighting fires in the forests that surround Missoula, Montana. A geographer with a deep personal need to bring people out of danger, Matt leads a search and rescue team whose job is to head directly into the mouth of hell, hiking into blazing backcountry to find missing residents. Matt and his team not only rely on their hard-won knowledge of Montana’s wild landscape, but also on Matt’s mentor, Dr. Bill Knight, a fire ecologist who understands the burning beast better than anyone.
 
When a suspicious fire destroys the mansion of a movie star, Matt must hike in to find his missing daughter and save her from the chaos. Then fires begin to explode everywhere as climate change drives temperatures over 100 degrees and rain refuses to fall, threatening thousands of homes. Who is setting these fires? Is it the Montana Tree Monkeys, an eco-radical group determined to scare off the newcomers? Or is it a retired smokejumper with an axe to grind about the encroaching mansions? Could it be Paladin, a shadowy figure leaving strange clues around the state? It’s Matt’s mission to find answers to these questions during a summer of heat, smoke, and unimaginable loss. Weaving together gripping drama and intriguing fire science, Fire Scars reveals the physical and psychological wounds we all carry—and the power we have to overcome.
 
 

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God of River Mud
A Novel
Vic Sizemore
West Virginia University Press, 2024

Grappling with innate desires and LGBTQ identity, a family struggles under the oppressive expectations foisted on them by fundamentalist Christianity.

Told through alternating perspectives, God of River Mud chronicles the lives of Berna Minor, her husband, their four children, and Berna’s secret lover.

To escape a life of poverty and abuse, Berna Cannaday marries Zechariah Minor, a fundamentalist Baptist preacher, and commits herself to his faith, trying to make it her own. After Zechariah takes a church beside the Elk River in rural Clay, West Virginia, Berna falls in love with someone from their congregation—Jordan, a woman who has known since childhood that he was meant to be a man. Berna keeps her secret hidden as she struggles to be the wife and mother she believes God wants her to be. Berna and Zechariah’s children struggle as well, trying to reconcile the theology they are taught at home with the fast-changing world around them. And Jordan struggles to find a community and a life that allow him both to be safely and fully himself, as Jay, and to be loved for who he is.

As the decades and stories unfold, traditional evangelical Bible culture and the values of rural Appalachia clash against innate desires, LGBTQ identity, and gender orientation. Sympathies develop—sometimes unexpectedly—as the characters begin to reconcile their faith and their love. God of River Mud delves into the quandary of those marginalized and dehumanized within a religious patriarchy and grapples with the universal issues of identity, faith, love, and belonging.

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Hawk's Nest
A Novel
Hubert Skidmore
University of Tennessee Press, 2004

Appalachian Echoes
Thomas E. Douglass, series fiction editor

“Very real and tremendously moving. . . . Not only an obvious brief for the unfortunate but a well told and honest story.” —New York Times

“Hubert Skidmore, a native West Virginian, wrote as a witness from inside the belly of the beast. His gift is for pitch-perfect dialogue, a varied cast of characters, and the calling up of emotion, of anger, fear, dread, and love. To encounter this novel at last is a sort of resurrection, both for its persecuted author and the Depression poor whose lives it evokes.” —Denise Giardina, author of The Unquiet Earth and Storming Heaven

The building of a tunnel at Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, beginning in 1930 has been called the worst industrial disaster in American history: more died there than in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the Sunshine and Farmington mine disasters combined. And when native West Virginian Hubert Skidmore tried to tell the real story in his 1941 novel, Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation apparently convinced publisher Doubleday, Doran & Co. to pull the book from publication after only a few hundred copies had appeared.

Now the Appalachian Echoes series makes Hawk’s Nest available to a new generation of readers. This is the riveting tale of starving men and women making their way from all over the Depression-era United States to the hope and promise of jobs and a new life. What they find in West Virginia is “tunnelitis,” or silicosis, a disease which killed at least seven hundred workers—probably many more—a large number of them African American, virtually all of them poor. Skidmore’s roman à clef provides a narrative with emotional drive, interwoven with individual stories that capture the hopes and the desperation of the Depression: the Reips who come from the farm with their pots and pans and hard-working children, the immigrants Pete and Anna, kind waitress Lessie Lee, and “hobos” Jim Martin, “Long” Legg, and Owl Jones, the last of whom, as an African American, receives the worst treatment. This important story of conscience encompasses labor history, Appalachian studies, and literary finesse.

Hubert Skidmore (1909–1946) was the author of five other novels: I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes (1936), Heaven Came So Near (1938), River Rising (1939), Hill Doctor (1950), and Hill Lawyer (1942). He died in a house fire at the age of thirty-seven.

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Hillbilly Hustle
Wesley Browne
West Virginia University Press, 2020
Knox Thompson thinks he’s working a hustle, but it’s a hustle that’s working him. Trying to keep his pizza shop and parents afloat, he cleans out a backroom Kentucky poker game only to be roped into dealing marijuana by the proprietor—an arrangement Knox only halfheartedly resists.
 
Knox’s shop makes the perfect front for a marijuana operation, but his supplier turns out to be violent and calculating, and Knox ends up under his thumb. It’s not long before more than just the pizza shop is at risk.
 
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How Fire Runs
A Novel
Charles Dodd White
Ohio University Press, 2020

A chilling, timely reminder of the moral and human costs of racial hatred.

What happens when a delusional white supremacist and his army of followers decide to create a racially pure “Little Europe” within a rural Tennessee community? As the town’s residents grapple with their new reality, minor skirmishes escalate and dirty politics, scandals, and a cataclysmic chain of violence follows. In this uncanny reflection of our time, award-winning novelist Charles Dodd White asks whether Americans can save themselves from their worst impulses and considers the consequences when this salvation comes too late.

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Hungry Town
A Novel
Jason Kapcala
West Virginia University Press, 2022

“A literary page-turner. . . . Part Cormac McCarthy, part Tom Drury and Raymond Chandler, Kapcala has created a voice all his own.” —Brian Castleberry

One October night in the depressed steel town of Lodi, Ohio, two police officers respond to a call about trespassers in the derelict Lodi Steel machine shop. A chase through the crumbling cathedral of steel columns launches a chain of events that will test the officers’ partnership and leave a boy to fend for himself in a decaying Rust Belt neighborhood choked by joblessness, boredom, and addiction.

On the opposite end of town, a young woman steps out of a rust-bucket Grand Marquis into an all-night diner. Instead of luggage, she carries mementos: an ankh tattoo she inked herself and a wallet-sized photograph of a boy who disappeared. She doesn’t realize her ex-boyfriend has hired two brothers to track her down and bring her back, by any means necessary.

The complex female leads of Hungry Town, with its sharp dialogue and poetic sensibility, turn classic noir and cop drama tropes on their heads. These morally complicated characters weave in and out of each other’s lives, sometimes violently, sometimes with surprising compassion.

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Like Light, Like Music
Lana K. W. Austin
West Virginia University Press, 2020
Emme McLean never imagined that in 1999 she would be living out the lyrics of the ancient murder ballads she grew up singing. But now Emme is back in Red River, Kentucky, using her skills as a journalist to prove her cousin did not kill her husband and to find out what is terrifying the town after many of its women went half-mad on the same night.

But to help her hometown’s haunted women, Emme must also face the things that haunt her, things she thought she had lost when she chose to move away: the majestic music of her family’s beloved hills and hollows, the mysterious old ways of her Appalachian kin, and the memory of her remarkable first love, Evan. Through it all, she must reckon with her magical “mountain gift”—is it real, or merely a unique synesthesia? And can she trust it to help heal her family and her town, a place still plagued by the social injustice that first drove her away? Can she trust it to help heal herself?
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Lioness
A Novel
Mark Powell
West Virginia University Press, 2022

“Emotionally wrenching. . . . Haunting (and haunted) in the best possible way.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Darkly compelling.” —Tom Perrotta

In the fall of 2018, a bomb goes off at a water-bottling plant in the mountains of southwest Virginia, an incident the FBI declares an act of ecoterrorism. Arrested at the scene is Chris Bright, a mountain hermit with a long history of activism. Unaccounted for—and presumed dead—is Mara Wood, an installation artist who in the last two years has lost her son and left her husband.

But Mara’s estranged husband David cannot quite believe she is dead, and as he goes about reconstructing the story of what happened, he begins to imagine an alternate narrative—one in which their son doesn’t die and his wife doesn’t leave him, one in which his wife doesn’t carry on a secret relationship with Chris Bright, a man bent on fighting back against the environmental despoliation of his Appalachian home. Lioness is a page-turning, heart-wrenching examination of extremism: What pushes people to act violently, and is that violence ever justified?

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Maranatha Road
Heather Bell Adams
West Virginia University Press, 2017
After Sadie’s son, Mark, is gone, she doesn’t have much use for other people, including her husband. The last person she wants to see is Tinley Greene, who shows up claiming she’s pregnant with Mark’s baby.
 
Sadie knows Tinley must be lying because Mark was engaged and never would have betrayed his fiancée. So she refuses to help, and she doesn’t breathe a word about it to anybody. But in a small, southern town like Garnet, nothing stays secret for long.
 
Once Sadie starts piecing together what happened to Mark, she discovers she was wrong about Tinley. And when her husband is rushed to the hospital, Sadie must hurry to undo her mistake before he runs out of time to meet their grandchild.
 
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Mourner's Bench
A Novel
Sanderia Faye
University of Arkansas Press, 2015
At the First Baptist Church of Maeby, Arkansas, the sins of the child belonged to the parents until the child turned thirteen. Sarah Jones was only eight years old in the summer of 1964, but with her mother Esther Mae on eight prayer lists and flipping around town with the generally mistrusted civil rights organizers, Sarah believed it was time to get baptized and take responsibility for her own sins. That would mean sitting on the mourner’s bench come revival, waiting for her sign, and then testifying in front of the whole church.

But first, Sarah would need to navigate the growing tensions of small-town Arkansas in the 1960s. Both smarter and more serious than her years (a “fifty-year-old mind in an eight-year-old body,” according to Esther), Sarah was torn between the traditions, religion, and work ethic of her community and the progressive civil rights and feminist politics of her mother, who had recently returned from art school in Chicago. When organizers from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) came to town just as the revival was beginning, Sarah couldn’t help but be caught up in the turmoil. Most folks just wanted to keep the peace, and Reverend Jefferson called the SNCC organizers “the evil among us.” But her mother, along with local civil rights activist Carrie Dilworth, the SNCC organizers, Daisy Bates, attorney John Walker, and indeed most of the country, seemed determined to push Maeby toward integration.

With characters as vibrant and evocative as their setting, Mourner’s Bench is the story of a young girl coming to terms with religion, racism, and feminism while also navigating the terrain of early adolescence and trying to settle into her place in her family and community.
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Night Garden
A Novel
Carrie Mullins
Ohio University Press, 2016
A harrowing, redemptive coming-of-age journey from youthful innocence to the darkest levels of addiction and human experience. When tragedy strikes her family, seventeen-year-old Marie Massey runs away from a safe, privileged life in her small college town and into the arms of a much older man in a neighboring Kentucky county. Though innocent at first, Marie’s budding relationship with the charismatic, thirty-year-old Bobo Owens and his family of bootleggers and drug dealers sets in motion a cataclysmic chain of events from which no one will emerge unscathed. In this stark reflection of the many challenges rural young people face in the heart of the opioid epidemic, debut novelist Carrie Mullins presents a haunting narrative about the ways addiction can destroy American communities. Published in 2016 by Old Cove Press
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front cover of A Place Remote
A Place Remote
Stories
Gwen Goodkin
West Virginia University Press, 2020
From farm to factory, alcoholism to war wounds, friendship to betrayal, the stories in A Place Remote take us intimately into the hearts of people from all walks of life in a rural Ohio town. Whether they stay in their town or leave for distant places, these characters come to realize no one is immune to the fictions people tell others—and themselves—to survive.

In each of these ten stories, Gwen Goodkin forces her characters to face the dramatic events of life head-on—some events happen in a moment, while others are the fallout of years or decades of turning away. A boy is confronted by the cost of the family farm, an optometrist careens toward an explosive mental disaster, a mourning teen protects his sister, lifelong friends have an emotional confrontation over an heirloom, and a high school student travels to Germany to find his voice and, finally, a moment of long-awaited redemption.
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Pop
An Illustrated Novel
Robert Gipe
Ohio University Press, 2024
A coming-of-age story of hope, betrayal, and familial legacy set in rural Appalachia. Set in the run-up and aftermath of the 2016 election, Pop brings the Canard County trilogy to a close as Dawn, the young narrator of Gipe’s first novel, Trampoline, is now the mother of the seventeen-year-old Nicolette. Whereas Dawn has become increasingly agoraphobic as the internet persuades her the world is descending into chaos, Nicolette narrates an Appalachia where young people start businesses rooted in local food culture and work to build community. But Nicolette’s precocious rise in the regional culinary scene is interrupted when her policeman cousin violently assaults her, setting in motion a chain of events that threaten to destroy the family—and Canard County in the process. In the tradition of Gipe’s first two novels, Pop’s Appalachia is full of clear-eyed, caring, creative, and complicated people struggling to hang on to what is best about their world and reject what is not. Their adventures reflect an Appalachia that is overrun by outside commentators looking for stories to tell about the region—sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but almost always oversimplified.
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Sarah’s Girls
A Chronicle of Big Ugly Creek
Lenore McComas Coberly
Ohio University Press, 2006

Situated in a remote outpost in West Virginia at the turn of the last century, the story that Lenore McComas Coberly tells in Sarah’s Girls is one of place, people, and unquenchable spirit. In this fictionalized account of her recent ancestors, Coberly masterfully traces the journeys of their lives, their dreams, and their hardships over the course of the twentieth century.

At its center is the story of Lena, who returns to care for her dead sister’s daughters, giving up the promise of a life that can spare her the adversity rural living guarantees. The author goes back to Big Ugly Creek, the place where her grandparents met—and the place whose memory she cannot leave.

Using the stories she was told in her childhood as a bridge to the past, Coberly uncovers facts about her family history from documents that have made their way from one generation to another and the truth from the inherent understanding she has of these people who are so close to her.

But Sarah’s Girls is not about the author; it is about the people and a place she loves. It is fiction written to tell the deeper truth about the hold West Virginia—its mountains and its valleys—has on its people.

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front cover of Shadows and Clouds
Shadows and Clouds
Marcus Stewart
Omnidawn, 2023
Stories that question our experience of time, truth, and memory.
 
Through the stories in Shadows and Clouds, Marcus Stewart invites us to consider how things are not always as they appear or as we remember them, instead locating reality in the imagination and the dream world. While animals understand the world without words, humans create our experiences as stories, translating past and future into tales told in the present. Stewart's stories take the notion of storytelling and expand to a consideration of how truth, misremembering, logic, lying, and uncertainty play together to affect our experience of reality. In an alternate reading of time, Stewart poses the suggestion that you may already have a future memory of reading this book, and reading the stories backward may bring us back to the present.

Shadows and Clouds is the winner of the 2021 Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Chapbook / Novelette Contest, chosen by Theodora Ziolkowski.
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front cover of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio
Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio
With Variant Readings and Annotations
Sherwood Anderson
Ohio University Press, 2000

In 1919 a middle-aged Chicago advertising writer from Ohio, a failure as a businessman, husband, and father, published a small yellow book of short stories intended to “reform” American literature. Against all expectations, Winesburg, Ohio: A Group of Tales of Ohio Small Town Life achieved what its author intended: after 1919 and after Winesburg, Ohio, American literature would be written and read freshly and differently.

Winesburg, Ohio has never been out of print, but never has Anderson’s book been published in the form and with the editorial care that the work has needed and deserved. The present text, authorized by the Sherwood Anderson Literary Estate Trust, is an expert text. The editor has relied on years of experience in editing Sherwood Anderson and has consulted all Anderson manuscripts, typescripts, letters, and diaries and all editions of the book to present the masterpiece in its intended state.

New to this expert edition of Winesburg, Ohio are historical and cultural annotations, documentation of changes in the various editions, identification of the Ohio originals for Anderson’s characters, and maps bearing the streets and buildings of the real town of Clyde, Ohio, which is the basis of Anderson’s fictional account.

Included as well are unique photographs of Anderson and Clyde, Ohio, illustrations that deepen knowledge and feeling for the author’s actual hometown and time, revealing Winesburg, Ohio to be an intensely local narrative—very much an “Ohio” book—and yet a book that has found and held worldwide attention.

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Son of Amity
Peter Nathaniel Malae
Oregon State University Press, 2018
Three lives on the verge of ruin intersect in the small Oregon town of Amity: Pika, a half-Samoan ex-con from California, seeks to deliver justice to his sister’s rapist; Michael, a five-tour Iraq War Marine, faces the cracked mirror of his own embattled soul; and Sissy, a recent convert to Catholicism, must resist the lure of ruthless self-judgment and discover what love is.  

Determined to escape the past, these characters find themselves sharing the same torn-down house, bordering tweaker poverty and bucolic wine country. Violence and penance, family and legacy, recidivism and post-traumatic stress disorder linger with the heavy rain of desperation. At the center of this storm is five-year old Benji, whose wide-eyed energy and openhearted faith could show all of them how to still be saved.  
 
In this unforgettable tale, award-winning author Peter Nathaniel Malae explores the depths of human pain and trauma with genuine cultural authority. Son of Amity is a novel whose voices cry out with truth and vulnerability, never betraying that slight tilt toward hope needed to make the long, hard trek to tomorrow.

 
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The Songs of Betty Baach
Glenn Taylor
University of Massachusetts Press, 2023

Finalist for the 2023 Weatherford Fiction Award

Some called her the Everywhen Woman. She claimed to be 321 years of age. In 2038, after the big storm and the great flood and the bad times, Betty Baach wrote these words down and sometimes spoke them aloud, at her homeplace on Freon Hill. She referred to them as songs. All stories are songs, she’d always say.

Set in West Virginia, The Songs of Betty Baach is a magical guide to resisting despair and a compendium of wisdom and rhythms by which to fortify oneself. The lives of the Baaches of Keystone and the Knoxes of Mosestown twist and connect in a tale of survival and retribution that crosses three centuries—moving from Betty’s girlhood in colonial America to a future warped by environmental collapse and political unrest. Refusing the erasure of the lives of women, Indigenous peoples, and Black people who have always called this region home, this eloquent and distinctive novel is a necessary remedy for the continued distortion of a land and its inhabitants.

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front cover of The Sound of Holding Your Breath
The Sound of Holding Your Breath
Stories
Natalie Sypolt
West Virginia University Press, 2018

The residents of The Sound of Holding Your Breath could be neighbors, sharing the same familiar landscapes of twenty-first-century Appalachia—lake and forest, bridge and church, cemetery and garden, diner and hair salon. They could be your neighbors—average, workaday, each struggling with secrets and losses, entrenched in navigating the complex requirements of family in all its forms.

Yet tragedy and violence challenge these unassuming lives: A teenage boy is drawn to his sister’s husband, an EMT searching the lake for a body. A brother, a family, and a community fail to confront the implications of a missing girl. A pregnant widow spends Thanksgiving with her deceased husband’s family. Siblings grapple with the death of their sister-in-law at the hands of their brother. And in the title story, the shame of rape ruptures more than a decade later.

Accidents and deaths, cons and cover-ups, abuse and returning veterans—Natalie Sypolt’s characters wrestle with who they are during the most trying situations of their lives.

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Still True
Maggie Ginsberg
University of Wisconsin Press, 2022
One summer evening, Lib Hanson is confronted by her painful past when Matt Marlow, the forty-year-old son she abandoned as an infant, shows up on her porch. Fiercely independent, Lib has never revealed her son’s existence—or her previous marriage—to her husband, Jack. Married nearly three decades but living in separate houses (to the confusion but acceptance of their neighbors), they enjoy an ease and comfort together in small-town Anthem, Wisconsin. But Jack is a stickler for honesty, and Lib’s long-dormant secret threatens to unravel their lives.

When ten-year-old Charlie Taylor arrives at Jack’s workshop shortly thereafter, he’s not the first kid in town to need help with a flat tire, and Jack gladly makes the repair to his bike. The Taylors are new to Anthem, and Jack soon discovers that Charlie and his mom, Claire, are struggling to fit in, even as Charlie’s dad, Dan, is thriving in his new job. Extending friendship and kindness, as well as introductions around the local café, Jack assumes a grandfatherly role. What he doesn’t see is the drinking that Claire hides from everyone, or the secret son that Lib has allowed to move into her house and the growing attraction between Claire and Matt. When the terrible events of a fateful evening threaten everyone’s carefully crafted lives, Jack, Lib, and their new friends must each determine the value of truth for the ones they love. 
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This Here Is Devil's Work
A Novel
Curtis Bradley Vickers
University of Nevada Press, 2021
In this unflinching, dramatic adventure, modern-day wildland firefighters and cattle rustlers struggle for survival in a changing western landscape. Braiding the stories of two firefighters (Morgan and Jeremy) and an abrasive laundromat custodian turned cattle-rustling grandmother (Jacklynn), This Here Is Devil’s Work is a fiery ride through the small towns of Nevada and Montana and the rugged expanse that connects them.

A twelve-year veteran of the fireline, Morgan believes he knows what his teenage half-brother (Jeremy) needs to do to shrug off boyhood: spend a single season fighting forest fires to earn money for auto mechanic school. But when Jeremy joins the Ruby Mountain Hotshots and earns the respect and admiration of their fire boss (Bailey), Morgan must battle his own demons before they destroy him.

Meanwhile, life hasn’t been easy on Jacklynn—she longs to escape the small town in Montana where she has lived her whole life and reunite with her daughter and grandson in Tucson. Jacklynn wants to make up for a lifetime of missteps by protecting the boy and making sure her daughter stays on course. On the same day that an attractive stranger waltzes into her life, an opportunity for life-changing money presents itself in the form of a dozen pregnant heifers. The only trouble is, they aren’t hers—not yet, anyway.

Morgan and Jacklynn’s paths cross when lightning ignites a blaze in the untamed Montana wilderness, and their choices force each other into
the fury.

Set against the backdrop of wildfires raging across the West and the firefighters who continue to put their lives on the line, This Here Is Devil’s Work explores how love and loneliness can sour, and how they can eventually lead to desperate and self-destructive acts even for those people we consider heroic. 
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To the Bones
VALERIE NIEMAN
West Virginia University Press, 2019

2020 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award finalist

Darrick MacBrehon, a government auditor, wakes among the dead. Bloodied and disoriented from a gaping head wound, the man who staggers out of the mine crack in Redbird, West Virginia, is much more powerful—and dangerous—than the one thrown in. An orphan with an unknown past, he must now figure out how to have a future.

Hard-as-nails Lourana Taylor works as a sweepstakes operator and spends her time searching for any clues that might lead to Dreama, her missing daughter. Could this stranger’s tale of a pit of bones be connected? With help from disgraced deputy Marco DeLucca and Zadie Person, a local journalist  investigating an acid mine spill, Darrick and Lourana push against everyone who tries to block the truth. Along the way, the bonds of love and friendship are tested, and bodies pile up on both sides.

In a town where the river flows orange and the founding—and controlling—family is rumored to “strip a man to the bones,” the conspiracy that bleeds Redbird runs as deep as the coal veins that feed it.

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Trampoline
An Illustrated Novel
Robert Gipe
Ohio University Press, 2015
Dawn Jewell is fifteen. She is restless, curious, and wry. She listens to Black Flag, speaks her mind, and joins her grandmother’s fight against mountaintop removal mining almost in spite of herself. “I write by ear,” says Robert Gipe, and Dawn’s voice is the essence of his debut novel, Trampoline. She lives in eastern Kentucky with her addict mother and her Mamaw, whose stance against the coal companies has earned her the community’s ire. Jagged and honest, Trampoline is a powerful portrait of a place struggling with the economic and social forces that threaten and define it. Inspired by oral tradition and punctuated by Gipe’s raw and whimsical drawings, it is above all about its heroine, Dawn, as she decides whether to save a mountain or save herself; be ruled by love or ruled by anger; remain in the land of her birth or run for her life.
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Weave Me a Crooked Basket
A Novel
Charles Goodrich
University of Nevada Press, 2023
A beautifully unconventional love story.

It’s the summer of 2008, and thirty-five-year-old Ursula Tunder, reeling from the breakup of a bad marriage, has abandoned her career as a botanist and moved home to the family farm to start a wholesale garden-plant greenhouse, and, perhaps more importantly, to care for her ailing father, Joe. Her younger brother, Bodie, now that a shoulder injury has ended his NFL career, comes home as well, to try his hand at organic farming. Their land at the edge of a prosperous college town is coveted by developers. Ursula wants to sell the farm to Camas Valley State University, which has promised to create a research facility on the land, but Bodie and his idealistic wife, Fleece, are committed to farming.

Enter Nu, Ursula and Bodie’s Vietnamese-American cousin by adoption, and an up-and-coming visual artist. When Nu gets arrested after a fight with a pair of dirt bikers, Joe persuades him to take refuge at the Tunder farm. Nu gets pressed into service helping Bodie with farm chores and taking care of Joe, so Ursula seizes the opportunity to get away from the farm, accepting a temporary job surveying native plants in the Cascades. But when Joe’s health plummets and Bodie’s finances crash, Ursula abandons her summer job to return home once again.

Facing bankruptcy, Ursula, Bodie, and Nu enlist a ragtag troupe of land-defenders in a festival of resistance in a last-ditch effort to save a way of life that may disappear forever.
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Weedeater
An Illustrated Novel
Robert Gipe
Ohio University Press, 2018
A finalist for the 2019 Weatherford Award in Fiction, Weedeater  is a contemporary story of love and loss told by a pair of eastern Kentucky mountaineers: Gene, the lovelorn landscaper who bears witness to the misadventures of a family entangled in drugs, artmaking, and politics, a family beset by both environmental and self-destruction; and Dawn Jewell, a young mother  searching—for lost family members, lost youth, lost community, and lost heart. Picking up six years after the end of Robert Gipe’s acclaimed first novel, Trampoline, in Weedeater,  the reader finds Canard County living through the last hurrah of the coal industry and the most turbulent and deadly phase of the community’s battle with opioid abuse. The events Gipe chronicles are frantic. They are told through a voice by turns taciturn and angry, yet also balanced with humor and stoic grace. Weedeater  is a story about how we put our lives back together when we lose the things we thought we couldn’t bear losing, how we find new purpose in what we thought were scraps and trash caught in the weeds.
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What We Don't Talk About
James Janko
University of Wisconsin Press, 2022
Orville, Illinois, is bucolic, charming, and almost Norman Rockwellesque—if you’re white. But like many midwestern cities in the 1960s, it is a “sundown” town—a place where Black Americans are prohibited from entering or remaining after dark.

The town’s most adventurous woman, Cassie Zeul, is an outcast because she has no husband and takes an occasional lover. Her son, Gus, guided by Sister Damien, aspires to be a priest, but he is increasingly overwhelmed by his infatuation with Pat Lemkey—who is herself drawn to Jenny Biel, considered by many to be the most beautiful girl in town. Gus’s best friend, Fenza Ryzchik Jr., a somewhat notorious bully desperate for his father’s attention, hates “colored people,” doesn’t think he knows any, and is certain he can convince Jenny to marry him one day—without realizing that her devout mother has been passing for white her entire life. Events come to a head when a visiting nun from the South brings an African American friend with her to Midnight Mass one Christmas Eve.

The dreams and desires of these characters collide and intersect as they navigate life and coming of age in the rural Midwest. In Janko’s masterful hands, the darkness—of prejudice, privilege, and power—that they don’t even recognize threatens to overwhelm their lives and their plans for the future. This novel forces us, as well as its characters, to acknowledge the cost of hiding our true selves, and of judging others based on the color of their skin or the longing of their hearts.
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Working It Off in Labor County
Stories
Larry D. Thacker
West Virginia University Press, 2021
Humorous and wry stories of misfits and ordinary people in an Appalachian community struggling creatively to make sense of an often nonsensical world.

“It seems like everybody but people from here are sure about what we’re about, and they make money being wrong about it.” The residents of Labor County, a fictional small community in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky, may be short on cash, but they are rich in creativity and tirelessly inventive as they concoct new schemes to make ends meet, settle old scores, and work off their debts to society and, in a way, to themselves.

A zealous history professor is caught stealing from the local museum in protest of petty theft; an arsonist strikes it lucky—twice; a skilled leatherworker saddles a turkey and finds a rider; an angel aspires to be a punk rock Roller Derby princess; a grieving artist carves a miracle into a roadside rock face; and affable Uncle Archie produces a seemingly unending supply of new and bizarre items to display in his Odditorium.

More than a collection of tales, Working It Off in Labor County assembles memorable characters who recur across these seventeen linked stories, sharing in one another’s struggles and stumbling upon humor and mystery, the grotesque and the divine, each in many forms.
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