Book Write-Up: The Whispering of the Willows

Tonya Jewel Blessing.  The Whispering of the Willows.  Capture Books, 2016.  See here to buy the book.

The Whispering of the Willows is set in Appalachia during the late 1920s.

Here are some of the main characters:

Emerald, or Emie, is in the eighth grade.  She is the main character of the book.

Emie’s father, Ahab Elijah, is abusive, but he was physically crippled in World War I, so he is limited in his ability to physically abuse his older boys.

Alma is Emie’s mother.  She endures her husband’s abuse and does not stand up to him.

Ernest is Emie’s older brother.  He is a good brother, who cares about his siblings.  He is a devout Christian, and he feels called to teach African-American children.

Lester is Emie’s other older brother.  Lester is a trouble-maker and a tough guy, but he converts to Christ and leaves the area.

Coral is one of Emie’s sisters.  She is quiet and shy.

Pastor Eugene is Ahab’s cousin.  He is a fire-and-brimstone preacher, teaches that women should obey their husbands, and preaches that African-Americans are cursed under the curse of Ham, even though he is also the pastor for the African-Americans of the community.

Charlie is Pastor Eugene’s son.  He is a wicked character, though heroism shines through, at least once.  Ahab promises Emie to Charlie, who does something horrible to Emie.

Justice is a kindly African-American man, who is threatened to take the blame for what Charlie did.

Mercy is Justice’s daughter.  She is the love interest of Ernest, though, back in this time, interracial marriage was against the law.

Auntie Ada is the kindly aunt of Emie.  She helps Emie during extremely difficult times, when Emie’s parents have forsaken her.

Doctor Bright was a love interest to Ada when they were younger, but Ada abandoned the romance after a confusing experience.  Will their love for each other blossom again?

Sheriff Robbins is a fair sheriff, overall.

Rudy, or “Red,” has had a crush on Emie since he first met her.  He is a decent fellow.

Each chapter is introduced with an “Appalachian Folk Belief,” which gave the book some authenticity.  Old time hymns are interspersed throughout the book, and they provide comfort and guidance to the characters, as well as nostalgia to me as a reader.

The first half of the book was better than the second half (though the first half did have a very disturbing scene).  The first half really got into the Appalachian world and the characters were realistic, and there were wise reflections.  The second half seemed to be moving along for the sake of moving along and was rather scattered.  At the same time, there was in the second half an honest look that Ernest took at himself, which led him to a particular decision.

More detail may have made the book better, on such topics as why Lester converted to Christ, how Ahab Elijah was a complex character, and why exactly Ernest felt led to teach African-American children.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash.  My review is honest.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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