Title: Where the Lilies Bloom
Authors: Vera and Bill Cleaver
Target Audience: 13 and up
Reading level: 9th grade
Main characters: the Luther family
Devola: 18, oldest daughter
Mary Call: 14, second daughter
Romey: only boy
Ima Dean: 5, youngest child
Kiser Pease: owns the land and house in which the Luther family live, wants to marry Devola
Summary: The Luther family lives in the mountains of North Carolina. Cosby, the mother, has already passed away. When Roy Luther realizes he's dying, he calls Mary Call in and requires some promises from her. First, she is to be sure the family has pride in themselves. Second, she must keep the family together and accept no charity. Finally, she must not let Devola marry Kiser Pease. If she can't keep it from happening any other way, she should go to town to tell the judge Devola is "cloudy-headed." Devola is often referred to as "cloudy-headed" throughout the book because, although she is eighteen, she seems more of a child than five-year-old Ima Dean. Also, Roy doesn't want a there to be a big fuss about his passing--no undertaker, no preacher, not even a funeral--just a simple burial up on the mountain.
The book details the many trials of the Luther family following Roy's death. The children learn "wildcrafting"--hunting through the forest for roots, berries, bark, and other things that people outside the mountains use to make things such as medicines--to sell for money to buy food and shoes. Mary Call is worried about leaving Devola and Ima Dean home when she and Romey go back to school--if someone stops by, the girls may slip and say something that will let out that Roy Luther is dead. Mary Call and Romey cannot spend time with friends from school because of worries that they might find out. Some people are insistent on talking to Roy Luther, Kiser included. The climax comes when Mary Call gets sick after spending a winter afternoon trying to find a cave in which the family can live, since they are being kicked out of their house. Finally, Devola's "cloudy-headedness" seems to have disappeared--she and Kiser are going to get married, the family house and some land are put in Devola's name, and Mary Call recovers. The harvesting will continue come spring, with plants too numerous for Mary Call to list.
Review: Although not told from an overtly Christian perspective, God is referenced in the book. At times, in the depths of winter and their troubles, Mary Call and Romey feel forgotten by the Lord. But as the book ends, with spring on the way, Mary Call realizes that these thoughts are childish and wasteful. The book deals with the trouble lies bring and how difficult it can be to keep a lie going. There is also an issue of whether it is acceptable to break a promise--Mary Call promised a dying man that she wouldn't let a marriage between Devola and Kiser happen. But when Devola somehow matures and loses her "cloudy head," the reason for that promise has disappeared.
Although the book uses some phrases and wording that may not be common to the average young reader of today (both regional mountain language and language that may be slightly unfamiliar because the book was originally written in 1969), I believe that most of the wording will be understandable by context. I enjoyed the book, which was a National Book Award Finalist.
4 stars--Out to eat.
Pretty good. The writing is good. Any objectionable elements are treated very well. No problems. I would read this author again. I'll probably keep the book to re-read.
Love in Christ,