The author of CLAY'S QUILT has woven another tale of America that delivers the essence of rural Kentucky in the early 1900s. Silas House is deserving of more awards for his latest piece of fiction, A PARCHMENT OF LEAVES. House makes the reader a part of the lives of his Kentucky hill people, their superstitions, family loyalties and intimate personalities.
Vine is a Cherokee girl, a product of Redbud Camp, a community high in the mountains. She is said to possess paralyzing looks and the ability to invoke curses on those who would come near her. Saul Sullivan ventures onto the mountain when he works for a developer, Tate Masters, to clear the high ground of timber. His younger brother Aaron sneaks out of their house, grabs an axe, and follows Saul to Redbud Camp. They pass Vine on the way to the mountaintop to begin the work. Saul is mesmerized by her haunting looks and natural beauty. Their chance meeting will change both of their lives forever.
The remainder of A PARCHMENT OF LEAVES is written from Vine's viewpoint. She leaves her Cherokee family and becomes Saul's wife and mother to their child, Birdie. Saul struggles to make a living for his young family and leaves for a job clearing trees for use in turpentine when World War I begins. He is gone from home for a year and Vine remains behind with his mother Esme and brother Aaron.
Relationships become tangled when Aaron stalks Vine and subsequently confronts her. Vine is angry and spurns his attentions. Aaron leaves the town and returns with a wife, Aida, who is pregnant with his child. Vine's life settles in to caring for Esme, Aida and the family. But she carries the stigma of the Cherokee outsider, inherent in the white town for years. There is the perpetual reminder that the townsfolk would hang an Indian, with no compassion for any crime against the white culture.
Vine faces this reality when she is backed into a corner by Aaron and retaliates against the attack. From that day forward, she lives with a lie that she feels will prove her unworthy of Saul's love. When Saul eventually returns home, Vine keeps the secret but it has changed their relationship.
House gives us a clear picture of the rural culture in Kentucky during the war years. Changes took place and people adjusted to the trials they had to endure with a stoicism that did not question. Saul and Vine are patterns in the changing landscape, leaves that blow and resettle with the passing winds. Their story is one of struggle and hope, one that takes opposite cultures and blends them with love.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 22, 2011
A Parchment of Leaves