Appalachian tales | WORLD
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Appalachian tales

BOOKS | Two novels hinge on a damaging lie and an absurd proposal

Appalachian tales
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IN 1905 the Vanderbilt family, owners of the famed Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., founded a school to teach custom woodworking and homespun weaving to underprivileged youth. This historical backdrop is the setting for Sarah Loudin Thomas’ well-researched novel, These Tangled Threads (Bethany House 2024). Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt play bit roles in the plot, as well as Fred Seely, architect of the renowned Grove Park Inn, and the Rev. Rodney Swope of All Souls Church (across the street from WORLD’s present-­day offices).

Set between 1915 and 1924, the story follows three fictional friends employed by Biltmore Industries. Lorna is a master weaver but lacks the creativity to design anything but the most basic patterns. Gentry is her reluctant student, but she possesses intricate designs that once belonged to her mother. After Lorna passes off the patterns as her own, she’s burdened with guilt and shame. Gentry vanishes without a goodbye and years pass.

Meanwhile, Arthur, an expert woodworker who pines for Lorna, has his hands full caring for his wayward younger brother. Then, a woman commissions Lorna to design a special fabric as a gift for Cornelia’s upcoming wedding. Lorna, knowing she doesn’t have the skills, asks Arthur to help her track down an elusive artisan to produce a design fit for a Vanderbilt. Their search leads to an opportunity for confession and forgiveness.

Ann H. Gabhart’s latest novel, The Song of Sourwood Mountain (Revell 2024), is set in 1910 Kentucky. On page 1, the Rev. Gordon Covington shocks Miss Mira Dean with a marriage proposal. They barely know each other, but due to a series of events, Mira eventually accepts Gordon’s absurd proposal and travels with him from Louisville to rural Sourwood to be not only his wife but also the mission schoolteacher. Mira fears her status as an outsider—or “brought-in”—means she’ll never fit into the tight-knit community of hardscrabble folks who jar their own sorghum syrup, churn their own butter, and, to her surprise, brew their own liquor in the backwoods.

Ostensibly, the story is about Gordon and Mira, but the real star is a semi-wild orphan named Ada June, whose only friend is her dog, Bo. Ada June has a case of selective mutism but yearns to go to school. Mira adores the little girl instantly, but feelings for her husband develop more slowly. Although she’s content in her role as Gordon’s wife, she’s hesitant to claim true love. Gordon patiently waits and believes God’s plan for them will work out. Let’s hope Gabhart is working on a sequel featuring feisty Ada June and her trusty canine sidekick.

Sandy Barwick

Sandy reviews Christian fiction and is a development officer on WORLD’s fundraising team. She is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute. She resides near Asheville, N.C.


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