Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Review: Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past

I'm pretty sure I've read - and really liked -  all of Sharyn McCrumb's Ballad novels, although it was quite a few years ago, so I was happy when Abingdon Press sent me this novella. The character of Nora Bonesteel was always a fascinating aspect of the series; the unassuming but canny old woman with the gift of sight that blurs past and future, living and dead. The fact that McCrumb blended her so seamlessly into otherwise realistic stories was impressive, although the Appalachian landscape and folklore always lent themselves well to an ever-so-slightly magical 'realism'. It was this series that first introduced me to the intriguing concept of liminality - the vulnerabilities, powers and possibilities inherent in in-between states in time or space.

This novella has the same shadings of history and lovingly detailed descriptions of the distinctive landscape that gave the novels such a vivid sense of place - you can practically smell woodsmoke and mountain air while reading. In addition to Nora, two other recurring characters from the series make an appearance - Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and Deputy Joe LeDonne, who have to drive into the mountains to make an arrest that doesn't go as smoothly as they'd hoped.

This is a lovely story - the humour (much of it at the expense of "summer people") is gentle, the treatment of the aging is respectful, and the overall tone is bittersweet. I enjoyed it very much.


Steph Lovelady said...

Do you think Bonesteel is a real last name or a pseudonym? It's rather poetic.

slow panic said...

Stop giving me books to put on my To Read List.

(please do not stop doing this)

Steph Lovelady said...

Oh, I see now it's a character name. Never mind.