Where the Lilies Bloom

By: Vera and Bill Cleaver
Fiction
1969
Rating: 4/5

Where the Lilies Bloom

Where the Lilies Bloom is a classic example of Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover.

I took one look at this and thought I was going to hate it. Be bored by it. Feel like I was reading a moralized children’s book.

But I didn’t.

The story is obviously juvenile. (The main character is fourteen.) But the writing is anything but.

I can see why this was nominated for the National Book Award. It’s beautiful, lovely, wistful, and yet clearly an Appalachian story.

So I have less to say about the subject matter than I do about the writing style.

The plot is fine. It’s a young girl trying to keep her family together after the death of their father. It has some good characterization, some good moral lessons, some adventure and hardships and humor.

But the voice of Mary Call Luther is what really makes this book a winner, and what really makes this book worthy of being read even if you aren’t a fourteen-year-old looking to identify with a stubborn, sometimes-wrong, independent heroine.

I’ve always wondered how people co-write books, much less how a husband and wife team co-writes a book. It is unimaginable for me; I can’t picture how it works.

But boy oh boy does it work in this novel.

Vera and Bill Cleaver have it figured out. They can take the language of Appalachia, the language of literature, the language of the mountains, the language of adolescence, and make them one and the same.

So pick this one up. Give it a chance. Ignore the cheesy cover and the ancient publish date.

You can probably find it for pretty cheap, so it won’t cost you more than a few bucks and an afternoon or two.

And I hope you enjoy the Luther family, the mountains they call home, the community they live in. And of course, give it to a child when you’re done.

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*****

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If you liked Where the Lilies Bloom, check out these books:

Christy by Catherine Marshall

Wish You Well by David Baldacci

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Coming up:

Christy by Catherine Marshall

The Complete Adventures of Charlie and Mr. Willy Wonka by Roald Dahl

The Known World by Edward P. Jones

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

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