Tuesday, July 29, 2014

the story not told

The Road from Gap Creek by Robert Morgan
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction
Review: When we left Hank and Julie at the end of Gap Creek (published in 2000), they were leaving Gap Creek and heading back up the mountain to begin anew.  Having survived a very rough first year of marriage, they were full of hope and love and the future seemed bright.  And, indeed, the future does seem to have been good to them.  In this sequel, narrated by Annie, one of their daughters, some 25 years after the events in Gap Creek, Hank and Julie have created a family, are financially stable, and overall seem to have been doing well in the years since we last saw them.  How did they get there?  Don't ask me.

Here is what we learn about those years: after leaving Gap Creek, Hank and Julie at some point moved back there, and then left again, when Annie was about 5 years old; Hank was able to find steady work in the '20s by building summer cottages for rich people; with steady work, he gained confidence; and they have 4 children.  Why did they return to Gap Creek?  Why did they leave again?  Dunno.  I suppose the stories must not be very interesting, since the only family lore Annie seems to know are things that happened when her parents were newlyweds - in other words, stories we already know if we read Gap Creek.  A sequel doesn't have to describe every detail that we've missed in the lives of the characters, but it's almost as though Morgan's imagination just totally failed him and he just doesn't know what happened to his characters in those 25 years.  In which case, quite frankly, this book needed a different title, because the road from Gap Creek is not at all the story it tells.

That being said, the writing is, of course, beautiful and evocative of Appalachia in the late 1930s and into WWII.  As a stand-alone book, this would have been a lovely read.  As a sequel, it just doesn't hold up.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

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