Requiem by Fire
Set in 1928 North Carolina, in Requiem by Fire Caldwell returns to the Appalachia of his first novel, Cataloochee. The National Park Commission needs a half- million acres of private property to hand over to the federal government. Attorney Oliver Babcock, Jr., presents two options: sell their land for the creation of a national park or lease back their own land at a lower price and, with new rules, stay behind. Change is coming, and the village of Cataloochee faces it with attitudes as diverse as the inhabitants.
Some are ready to go, like Jim Hawkins, now working for the Parks commission, although his wife Nell is not as sanguine about the changes in store for their family. Others set in their rural traditions, like Silas Wright, resist selling or following the new rules for those who remain. Wright thinks a lawsuit against the commission might stop the lease-back rules. Willie McPeters threatens those who have decided to stay put. And a town fire-starter, who once burned down a school house with the best of motives, thinks of playing by his own rules.
Requiem by Fire explores another American time of change and stress with solutions that are as complex as the problems that created them. The characterizations and details of time and place effectively transport readers to this close-knit community that honors its traditions, but the dialogue is sometimes a bit too molasses-laden, and the pace might prove too leisurely.