If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss

Review published on July 16, 2017.

Refreshing and poignant, this is a book about the trials of life in an impoverished, essentially forgotten/ignored area in the Appalachian Mountains, Virginia. With few able to read or write, issues associated with interbreeding, and grimy locals often only wearing sacks for clothes, these are very insulated people. Life is tough and so is their mind-set. They are suspicious of strangers, speak their own dialect and take a particular interest in digging ginseng and drinking moonshine.

The key characters in the book each convey their thoughts and life events through their own chapter, styled so that events in the book run concurrently. Each of the characters is bold and memorable so that as you learn about them and as you do their backstory allows you to understand their outer exterior and behaviour.

Much centres on Sadie Blue, a young woman regularly beaten by her brute of a husband. Ending up pregnant she thinks she has done the right thing by marrying him to avoid deriding gossip about being a sinner, but really she has subjected herself to life of misery and bruises. Naturally bright, the local preacher sees potential in her, something mirrored by the misfit new teacher who moves into the area. They are great observations from the characters, from the teacher being described as book clever, mountain stupid, to a quiet underlying respect for each other’s choices and beliefs.

Undeniably harsh, graceful in depiction this is a vivid portrayal that is immersive and beguiling. The ending does seem to come about quite suddenly but nonetheless, it is a delight to read.

Sara Garland 5/5

If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss
Sourcebooks, Inc 9781492647454 pbk Aug 2017

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