HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

River of Earth by James Still
Loading...

River of Earth (1940)

by James Still

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1555121,087 (4.21)10
First published in 1940, James Still's masterful novel has become a classic. It is the story, seen through the eyes of a boy, of three years in the life of his family and their kin. He sees his parents pulled between the meager farm with its sense of independence and the mining camp with its uncertain promise of material prosperity. In his world privation, violence, and death are part of everyday life, accepted and endured. Yet it is a world of dignity, love, and humor, of natural beauty which Still evokes in sharp, poetic images. No writer has caught more effectively the vividness of mountain speech or shown more honestly the trials and joys of mountain life.… (more)
None
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 10 mentions

Showing 5 of 5
Novel from 1940, set in 1920s coal country of eastern Kentucky, closely informed by the life of its author. Brack and Alpha Baldridge are the parents to four children, one of whom namelessly narrates the telling. What is told here feels like a genuine portrayal of a hardscrabble life, as a family shifts between scratch farming and the lure of regular pay from the mines. The author generously shares the challenges, deprivations, drudgery, where cushaw pies, beans and scraps from the meat box are precious commodities in simply getting through winter. Ne'r-do-well kin impose on the over-accommodating father, and age old feuds define the boundaries of school friendships.

Certain passages appealed to me, like Grandma's memory of "when the pigeons came", with "wings rock-moss gray..The sun-ball was clapped out, and it got nigh dusty dark." (describing a massive flock of the now-extinct passenger pigeon). A notable scene involves the schoolmaster and kids using sulphur to smoke out the bats in the rafters.

What enlivens these folksy tales the most is the endearing mountain dialect, which is very effective in relating the stories. A good example is Alpha's cautionary description of the previous time the family lived in the mining camps: "Smoke blowing and blacking no matter where you set down in Blackjack Holler. I recollect the last time we moved to the camps. Tobacco cuds stuck in the cracks, snuff dip staining the room corners, and a stink all over. I biled water by the pot and tub, washing and scrubbing, making it so you could draw a healthy breath." ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Dec 8, 2018 |
’Mother was on the rag edge of crying. “Forever moving yon and back, setting down nowhere for good and all, searching for God knows what,” she said. “Where air we expecting to draw up to?” Her eyes dampened. “Forever I’ve wanted to set us down in a lone spot, a place certain and enduring, with room to swing arm and elbow, a garden-piece for fresh victuals, and a cow to furnish milk for the baby. So many places we’ve lived – the far side one mine camp and next the slag pile of another.”’

A refrain that was probably heard in many homes in 1940s Appalachia. Coal mining and its faster money supplanting farming as a way of life, but though the money was faster, living was uglier in a coal town. And the need was diminishing, diggers being let go, mines shutting down. Life decisions. A hard life, whichever route you took, births, deaths. The narrator is a young son of the family in this story. The author, James Still, lived his whole life in Appalachia, and it makes me wonder if this story isn’t somewhat biographical. I found this a fascinating slice of life from a not-too-distant time and a place changed, for better or worse, by coal mines. From Brother Mobberly’s sermon:

”Oh, my children, where air we going on this mighty river of earth, a-borning, begetting, and a-dying – the living and the dead riding the waters? Where air it sweeping us?” ( )
  countrylife | Mar 8, 2012 |
James Still beautifully captures the the heart of Appalachia. It was entirely engaging from start to finish. I was worried with all the poverty and human struggle and pain This book would be depressing, but was not. It was inspiring. Highly recommend. ( )
2 vote abbydonaldson | Jan 9, 2010 |
A classic of Appalachian literature-- River of Earth is told through the eyes of the oldest son (around 7 years old, he remains unnamed throughout, although his parents lovingly call him one of their chaps) who narrates the story of his family's struggles in the hills of eastern Kentucky. The father maintains that he is a born coal miner and insists his family follow him to live in town, while the mother longs to stay lonesome farming in the mountains. I am reminded of The Grapes of Wrath when the family leaves their farm to live in the depressing coal mining camps.

A favorite section that had me smilin' early on is when the wife stands up to her husband and tells him to ask his kinfolk to leave-there simply isn't enough food. He refuses to turn them out, so what does she do?--burns down their cabin and moves her children into the smokehouse!
Another part I loved was when the 2 oldest children find out that they will be able to finally attend school. Father tells them,
"I saw Jonce Weathers, the Flat Creek school-teacher today. I asked him how many scholars he had and he says eighty-six, he thinks, but they wiggle so he couldn't count 'em for shore. I said I had two chaps ought to be in school. He says send them along, now he did."

The title is referred to by Ma's favorite mountain preacher, Brother Sim Mobberly-- "My brethren, they hain't a valley so low but what hit'll rise agin. They hain't a hill standing so proud but hit'll sink to the low ground o' sorrow. Oh, my children, where air we going on this mighty river of earth, a-borning, begetting, and a-dying--the living and the dead riding the waters? Where air it sweeping us?"
Indeed the theme of birth and death resonates strongly. (In one of the words the author uses often): This beautiful novel leaves me with a feeling of dolesomeness -a sad, but hopeful, longing for my home state of Kentucky. ( )
2 vote GCPLreader | Jul 12, 2009 |
Showing 5 of 5
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
The mines on Little Carr closed in March.
Quotations
Mother was on the rag edge of crying. “Forever moving yon and back, setting down nowhere for good and all, searching for God knows what,” she said. “Where air we expecting to draw up to?” Her eyes dampened. “Forever I’ve wanted to set us down in a lone spot, a place certain and enduring, with room to swing arm and elbow, a garden-piece for fresh victuals, and a cow to furnish milk for the baby. So many places we’ve lived – the far side one mine camp and next the slag pile of another.”
We broke out three furrows. Then Uncle Jolly stood aside and let me hold the handles. I felt the earth flowing, steady as time.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.21)
0.5
1
1.5 1
2 1
2.5
3 3
3.5 1
4 8
4.5
5 14

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 141,672,670 books! | Top bar: Always visible