The Rock Orchard
Rollicking, touching, laugh-out-loud funny, and extremely sensual, this book set in Leaper’s Fork, Tennessee, around the time of WWII is a delight. The opening sentences (“Just because a woman is good at something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what she should do in life. If that were the case, most of the women in the Belle family would be hookers.”) grabbed hold of me, and the story never let me go. The Belle women started with the Cajun French Musette, who was endowed with special powers and whose grave is marked by a startlingly real, very naked, marble likeness. Musette’s granddaughter Charlotte, Charlotte’s niece Angela, and Angela’s daughter Dixie (whose nickname came from Dixie cups) fill this novel with their unique personalities. They have a tangled relationship with newcomer Dr. Adam Montgomery and his ever-so-proper Bostonian wife, Lydia. Adam meets Angela when he finds her having a baby in his flower bed. Adam took up medicine because a profession was expected of him, but he had no real calling for it, until Angela inspires him as she inspires other men to serve others. Despite himself, he manages to deliver the baby, while falling under Angela’s spell.
Leaper’s Fork serves as a fruitful setting for the growth of characters and a wide range of relationships. Even chilly Lydia proves to have some startling aspects to her personality. This first novel is a stunning achievement. I shall eagerly seek out any other novels Paula Wall writes.