The Mountain (The Valley Trilogy)

Written by Helen Bryan
Review by Janice Ottersberg

This second novel in Helen Bryan’s Valley Trilogy begins in 1783 with some time overlap with the first in the series, The Valley, which ends in 1837. This trilogy tells the story of the founding and growth of the town of Grafton in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Sophia and Henri de Marechal, along with a handful of other settlers, including escaped slaves and indentured servants, have settled in the valley and founded the town of Grafton. Immigrants from Europe as well as Indians have also settled the area.  This second book tells of the daily struggles, triumphs, and tragedies of the different interconnected families. They are troubled with Indian attacks and slave hunters who would recapture the former slaves to resell them regardless of their freed status. The community is close-knit, and the stories of weddings, births, holidays, and celebrations are heartwarming. Looming in the background is the pre-civil war and civil war unrest. The government confiscation of land from the Cherokee Nation and later their removal also plays a small role.

The book covers over 100 years (1783-1899). As the cast of characters grows exponentially with each generation and newcomers moving in, the book becomes unwieldy. Since it contains no family genealogy charts, it is impossible to keep track of the numerous children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren without making charts oneself. The plot moves along with situational stories from character to character. Such a large cast of characters over such a long span of time means that the characters become nothing but a name on the page, and the reader cannot get to know them or become invested in their stories. The original characters in the first book were fully developed with rich stories, making it a wonderful read; but sadly, The Mountain doesn’t hold up to its predecessor.