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The Land Breakers by John Ehle
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The Land Breakers (1964)

by John Ehle

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It's the craft of this book that is a marvel. The author drew from a rich store of folk knowledge and history to create the warp of the story. The weave is a cast of characters that are fully formed and alive. The language is deceptively simple but the characters and emotions are not. It explores big themes like love and poverty in ways that do not intrude on the story itself. Shoes from a cobbler show wealth. Shoes made of leather pegged with green wood is poverty. Love comes in many forms even if the word love in not used. The book is a gem. ( )
  77nanci | Jan 8, 2017 |
First released in 1964 The Land Breakers spans from 1779 to 1784 when the first settlers went beyond Morgantown, West Virginia to homestead in the Appalachian Mountains. Mooney Wright was the first to break ground to start a farm and a variety of others followed. He has big dreams and isn’t afraid to work towards his goals.

Tinkler Harrison comes with his family. Tinkler has his own ideas for the settlement all the way down to its name Harrisonville. In his vision the only settlers that will be allowed in the area have to meet his standards. There will be no riff raff or deadbeats in Harrisonville.

Ernest Plover, Tinkler’s brother-in-law, comes later with his family. He has a houseful of girls and his oldest, Belle, is Tinkler’s second wife. Ernest isn’t exactly the ’right’ kind of man to have at the new settlement. He doesn’t really fit the bill but he‘s family.

Many others follow despite the hardships. This unit of people are united in one goal, to keep their homes and to build something out of this wilderness. They come close to losing everything but they stick with it with an eye toward the future.

The characters are so genuine that it’s easy to become involved in their fight for survival. The Land Breakers truly depicts the reality of settling this country. Some parts are almost poetic in their description of the beauty of the land. In other chapters the wonder in the birth of twin lambs and the joy a newly cleared field brings can be felt. There is also the crushing disappointment when bears or wolves kill some of the stock and the ongoing fight to prevent that from happening.

Tinkler Harrison says it best, “it’s harder here, but I care more here. It takes more work here, it takes a man’s life here, it asks all a man has to give and a man gains as well as loses by joining in with land like that.”
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  Diane_K | Jul 14, 2015 |
A fascinating piece of writing, Ehle puts you inside the minds of illiterate yet aware early settlers of North Carolina. It is an elegiac work that sticks with you like a prayer. Yet oddly there is no god in this place or these people. It is poetry more than history. ( )
  Candl | Feb 21, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Ehleprimary authorall editionscalculated
Spalding, LindaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 097722838X, Hardcover)

Harper Lee says, "John Ehle's meld of historical fact with ineluctable plot-weaving makes 'The Land Breakers' an exciting example of masterful storytelling. He is our foremost writer of historical fiction." Robert Morgan, author of Oprah pick 'Gap Creek,' says 'The Land Breakers' is a "complex, compelling story of settlement and discovery, it introduced readers to the Blue Ridge past, to explorers, families, the land. The land that is broken is itself a major, unforgettable character in this vivid, memorable story." Set in 1779, 'The Land Breakers' follows young Mooney and Imy Wright deep into the Appalachian wilderness where they become the first white pioneers to settle deep in the mountains of Western North Carolina. "What ensues during these six years is an often violent struggle: first merely to survive and then to create a viable settlement, some human community that might last. For in this stark mountain fastness, each of the important characters-male and female alike-is seeking two things: family and community." (from the Afterword, by Terry Roberts) First published in 1964 by Harper & Row, 'The Land Breakers' returns to print as a Press 53 Classic. As Hal Borland wrote, in his 1964 New York Times review, "In a time of dreamless heroes, of long-winded whimpers that pass as novels, The Land Breakers has a rare degree of greatness."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:18 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"First published fifty years ago in 1964 to great acclaim, The Land Breakers is John Ehle's best-known work of historical fiction, chronicling the hard-won settlement of southern Appalachia. A cinematic saga spanning the Revolutionary War years of 1779 to 1784, The Land Breakers recounts in spare, unflinching prose the challenges, setbacks, and small triumphs of the defiant men and women who were drawn to the wilderness of provincial North Carolina. Eager for opportunity in a land where the easy country had been claimed, Ehle's unforgettable characters stake their lives on the settlement of the unnamed high mountain territory. Strong and silent Mooney Wright is the first to make his way into the forbidding mountains. Others steadily follow: the cruel patriarch Tinkler Harrison, his daughter Lorry, the free-spirited Mina Plover. The Land Breakers is a paean to man's capacity for work, and Ehle imbues the hardworking men and women of his book--the land breakers of this young country--with nobility"--… (more)

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