Silas House is a writer with a sense of place. His place is rural Kentucky, of which he writes a poignant story. The fictional setting is a small coal mining community called Free Creek. House's story is full of real anguish, conviction, joy, and the quest for answers from its people. His characters are bigger-than-life, with quirks, oddities, and realities that produce laughter, tears, anxious moments, and satisfaction for his readers.
In his mid-20s, Clay Sizemore has lived in Appalachia his entire life and works in the coal mines at Black Banks. He is a product of the hill country and is loyal to the relatives who raised him, especially Aunt Easter, his dead mother's sister. Clay is comfortable with his life but he lives with indecision and is unable to move forward with his own plans, because questions about his mother and her life plague him. Orphaned at age four, his wish is to learn the truth about Anneth's murder.
Aunt Easter has the gift of foreseeing the future. Clay's great-uncle's gift is his skill at quilting. Clay's own gift is that of genuine friendliness and humor. His best friend, Cake, leans on him for the strength he does not possess. His cousin, Dreama, is his best female friend. And Alma, an angelic girl who plays her fiddle into his heart, becomes his obsession.
Author House allows the reader into his settings to taste, smell and feel that place where the story happens; and he builds characters that illuminate this strong sense of place. His descriptions of the Kentucky countryside are spellbinding. His characters live and breathe in places that only they can inhabit. Although CLAY'S QUILT is a 20th century story, it could easily have taken place a century before.
"There is a cool that sometimes comes down over the mountains in the evening...peach light stands like steam along the horizon...mist seeps out of the jagged cliffs...creek slips over old rocks..."
Time-honored themes of family loyalty, strength of religious experience and conviction, love and lust, substance abuse, and violence fill the novel's pages. House wastes few words in the development of his plot to its conclusion. He is an author from whom more fine storytelling will be applauded.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on February 26, 2002