Monday, October 10, 2011

Book Review - Ghost on Black Mountain

Each month we write a review of the third Tuesday's book club selection and we post it on the Monday following the third Tuesday. Sounds a little complicated? Well, I'm really throwing a wrench in the works today, because our third Tuesday book club met on first Friday this month to accommodate a special visitor -- the author!

Ann Hite was in town researching one her next books and promoting Ghost on Black Mountain, a novel set in the North Carolina Smokies and Darien, Georgia. The depression-era ghost story is told in the voices of five interconnected women. Nellie Pritchard begins the tale, and four other women fill in the details and bring the story to its conclusion in the 1960's. 

Hite opened the discussion with reading a moving portion of Josie's (Nellie Pritchard's mother) story. Not just touching, the passage is emblematic of Hite's writing process. The beautiful passage details the story of Josie preparing her mother's body for burial. Josie begins saying, "I'd watched Mama prepare my granny's body. I knew what to do. The women in the family cared for the dead." 

As a "blank page" writer, Hite literally begins with a blank page, not an outline, often writing in long hand. Her characters speak to her and she writes it down. She is as unsure where the story will end as the reader while she is writing. The passage of Josie tenderly washing her mother's body for burial was an example of something she still can't believe that she actually wrote! Ann says that one of the reason she writes is to find out the ending of the stories that her characters are telling her.

The five narrators tell their story with convincing voices. And while this book is a ghost story, at it's heart, it is the story of five women, their choices and the consequences of those choices. For me, that is what made it interesting.

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