Hazel Creek

Written by Walt Larimore
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Larimore’s Hazel Creek is set in the mountains of North Carolina, near Bryson City and Asheville, and tells the story of the Randolph family as they struggle against poverty, the challenges of living in the Great Smokies, and evil lumber companies to preserve the simple life they love. Part Waltons and part Little House on the Prairie, this saccharine tale covers 1924-1925, a turbulent time when big corporations used any means necessary to get what they wanted, especially in out-of-the-way places.

Heading up the family are Nathan and Callie Randolph. This couple has all the attributes one has come to expect from mountain people: independent, hard-working, kind beneath a veneer of suspicion. They and their five daughters fight to hold onto their ancestral land against the often illegal machinations of the Calhoun Lumber Company and the thugs hired to secure virgin timber any way they can.

Told in an episodic manner, some of the chapters don’t contribute to the flow of the story; in fact, these odd bits seem to be included for local color. And, if you don’t mind characters who quote the Bible to one another, chapter and verse (literally) you won’t be irritated by the sometimes heavy-handed message of the book. Howard is the Christian publishing arm of Simon and Schuster, so a particular world-view is to be expected.

Larimore does a good job capturing Appalachian culture and mores, which add a charming dimension to the novel. Unfortunately, the five daughters remain a sort of girlish blob until the end, when the oldest girl, Abbie, comes to the fore as a fully-endowed character. Though flawed, this novel does offer a glimpse into a world gone by and the solid folks who settled along the ridges of the mountains.