Accompanying one Appalachian family down through the years is a ballad first learned by Scotsman Malcolm McCourry aboard ship in 1751. Another inheritance brought with him to America is a family curse, which states that the eldest child of each successive generation will never be loved best by his parents. The song and the curse follow Malcolm and his descendants from Morristown, New Jersey to their later home in the western North Carolina mountains. Each generation forward participates in the folk process, but for present-day descendant, renowned folksinger Lark McCourry, the song is only a vague memory. Her quest to regain her family’s lost heritage becomes one of the novel’s focal points.
From her own family history, McCrumb has crafted a graceful tale redolent with the history and lore of the Carolina mountains. The author’s respect and admiration for the land, legends, and the people of the Appalachians are present in every word. Based on this story, it’s easy to understand why families long resident in this part of the South don’t seem to want to leave.