Light to the Hills

Written by Bonnie Blaylock
Review by Bonnie DeMoss

In the mountains of Kentucky, times have always been hard, but during the Depression, they are leaner than ever. Young Sass MacInteer is gathering ginseng in the holler when she meets Amanda Rye, a packhorse librarian sent out to provide books and cheer to those who are isolated and struggling. The MacInteers are doing what they can to get by, and that includes sending their men deep into the coal mines to eke out a living. Amanda, a young widow, is reeling from struggles of her own and is thankful for the librarian job, which helps her support her young son. Wounds from her past have kept her from reaching out, although she feels an attraction to Finn MacInteer, the eldest son. Even as the family befriends Amanda, and Sass begins to appreciate the joy of books, secrets from Amanda’s past might threaten them all.

This is a gorgeously written and well-layered novel that immediately transports us to the Appalachian Mountains of the 1930s. Bonnie Blaylock does a wonderful job of portraying the beauty of the “shifting blues and greens” of Appalachia and the proud determination of its people. The characters draw you in immediately. Sass’s personality matches her nickname, and the quiet but steely resolve of Rai MacInteer keeps her family not only fed but well cared for. Illiteracy in Appalachia is explored, as there was usually no money for books or, for many, an ability to read them. We celebrate with Sass as we feel the joy of holding a book and of learning to read for the first time. The ways, superstitions, folklore, and justice of the mountain people are woven deeply into the story. Rich in color, tradition, and character, this mountain saga will hold you spellbound.