The Road from Gap Creek

Written by Robert Morgan
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Robert Morgan’s masterpiece, Gap Creek, came out in 1999 and was an Oprah pick. This new novel continues the story of the Richards family whose hardscrabble life in the Appalachian Mountains is both heart-wrenching and inspiring. In the new book, Morgan does more than tell the story of a family (as if that weren’t difficult enough). He weaves the history of the United States in the 20th century into the tale. We see how common everyday folks are touched by world-shaking events: the First World War, the Great Depression, WWII, and the shifts of life from rural to urban, farm-based to factory-based.

When the family receives news from the men in black suits that Troy, the youngest child, has been killed in the war, each begins to grieve. And, like all of us, each will grieve in a particular way. Annie, the youngest girl who is six years older than Troy, remembers her adventures with Troy as they grew up together. These memories are like a quilt, patched together the way the mind works, one thing leading to another. What emerges is a portrait of Troy and the entire Richards family, rendered with rich detail, shown in relief against the larger story of world events.

The writing is beautiful, showing Morgan’s skill with words. He is a poet as well as fiction writer and biographer. In short, The Road from Gap Creek is a splendid book