Autumn Bends the Rebel Tree
Carolyn Guy’s debut novel, Autumn Bends the Rebel Tree, tells the story of Clarinda McCloud, a strong Appalachian woman who raises her large brood of children (seventeen!) in the mountains of North Carolina from 1913 to 1951. Married at 14 and widowed at 38, Clarinda must struggle to clothe and feed her brood.
Though the title page calls this work a novel, it reads more like a memoir and is told episodically. For those not used to reading mountain dialect, this book might prove problematic, but for one such as myself, raised in the mountains of West Virginia, Guy captures the idiomatic speech of the region – she’s spot on.
She also captures the Depression-era desperation of hardscrabble farmers struggling to eke out a living from rocky mountain soil and the love that often binds such families together. Fiddle-playing and dancing are the bright spots of such a life, and the McCloud family enjoys both. There is an innocence to this story set in an age before Americans came to expect life to be easy. And there is hope in the love one woman can bring into the world.