On Viney’s Mountain


Viney Walker’s world is changing, and she doesn’t like it one bit. Orphaned along with her older brother and sister as a young girl, Viney, now sixteen, loves running barefoot around her mountain home in Tennessee, loves weaving woolen coverlets with homemade designs, and loves her independence. But when English settlers come and build a town in the middle of the forest, everything Viney loves is threatened. The settlers don’t respect the mountain as Viney does, Viney’s sister, Lizzie, starts taking on the uppity foreign ways of the English, and Viney herself begins to fall for a young Englishman. Set in the late 19th century, On Viney’s Mountain expertly weaves together the upheaval of industrialization in England, the founding of the utopian agricultural community of Rugby in the hills of Tennessee, and the coming of age of a spirited young woman.

Joan Donaldson’s writing is a pleasure to read for her engaging similes, “like a great white moth the preacher raised his arms in prayer” and “leaves fluttered and swirled about the men, sifting through branches like yellow and red snowflakes.” In addition, the characters are well defined and the historical details are spot on. The plot, however, gave me a little trouble. Viney’s indecisiveness, while natural in a teenager, seemed to reflect that of the entire book, which wavered between the tale of a woman who represents a threatened culture and a romance. Even at the end, there is no conclusion to the primary conflict in the story, and thus I finished feeling unsatisfied, like hearing a cadence without the final note. 

On Viney’s Mountain is a charming story about how an independent 16-year-old girl, Lavinia Walker, tries to drive foreign settlers from her mountain home inTennessee. However, one of the settlers, Charlie Breckenridge, makes her reconsider her plan. As Viney falls for Charlie, she is afraid that loving him would mean giving up her beloved forest and the weaving she loves.

The way Joan Donaldson describes Viney’s feelings makes me feel close to her. Viney is a likeable character even though she is judgmental towards other people. The plot was romantic and kept my attention although the end was confusing. I would definitely recommend this book to my friends.

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(US) $16.95

(US) 9780823421299