Ghost on Black Mountain
Ann Hite’s debut novel, Ghost on Black Mountain, is a winner. Set in the Appalachian Mountains during the Great Depression, Hite tells the story of Nellie Clay who, at seventeen, falls in love with Hobbs Pritchard, a man filled with evil but irresistible to women, especially young girls prone to rebellion and romance.
After Hobbs and Nellie marry, he takes her to his home in Black Mountain, North Carolina, where he is despised by everyone who lives there. Nellie soon realizes she has come to a strange place when she begins to see ghosts hovering all around her – the man with glasses who visits her, the young girl who tries to warn her away – apparitions of Hobbs’ victims. But Nellie loves Hobbs and intends to stand by him, even when he beats her silly. Slowly, her love turns into something else, and the admonitions she has ignored prove accurate: there is death in the air.
Told in the voices of five different women, all who loved Hobbs one way or another, this book is riveting. However, the first and longest section, from Nellie’s point of view, is the most compelling. Hite gives voice to Southern Appalachian culture – the haunted landscape of hills and hollows that make perfect habitats for spirits of all kinds. In a culture that has been historically without the resources of other, more profitable areas, stories and music have served to entertain on cold, lonely winter nights. And that is the gift of the mountains captured here.