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The Songcatcher: A Ballad Novel


The Songcatcher: A Ballad Novel

In the "old" days, people in the United States actually spent part
of their leisure time "spinning yarns," telling stories true and
exaggerated or fake and farfetched. It is hard to imagine, in this
day of the computer, people passing anything down to each other
without putting it on a hard drive first. However, in Sharyn
McCrumb's wonderfully intricate THE SONGCATCHER, a young woman
searches out her family legacy in a song that has been passed
through the generations, which tells her more about where she came
from than any legal document ever could. This is a yarn if there
ever was one.

Lark McCourry is a contemporary girl with one foot firmly in the
past. As a folksinger, she finds all music fascinating, but the
song passed throughout her family ties is special. Brought to
existence by one Malcolm McQuarry, an ancestor who moved to the
States from Scotland in 1759, it was learned aboard an English ship
and traveled with Malcolm all his life, from Morristown, New Jersey
to Western North Carolina. The song gained new strength and purpose
as the McCourry family suffered through the American Revolution,
the Civil War, and the other great upheavals that shaped a
nation...and a family history as well. Lark must turn to Nora
Bonesteel, a friend of her father's, for information --- Nora has
the ability to talk to both the dead and the living, and Lark needs
to explore both realms in order to discover the real meaning of the

McCrumb is a writer compelled by an inner truth to look at life
from all sides. Her characters are deep and enriched with truly
human attributes (Lark's father will start to feel like a member of
the family halfway into the story), and the whole thing reads like
her own family history. You get the sense that the author has been
here before, in this territory, living among these people,
listening, watching. I felt like some secret had been spilled
bravely by her, a tale of a family that had been rightly protected
until her eager writer-self convinced them to let her tell their
adventures to everyone. THE SONGCATCHER has that spectral

THE SONGCATCHER is a wonderful book (and, by the way, was recently
made into a wonderful film by Maggie Greenlaw and is available on
video). Once you get the story of this song inside your own head,
you will hear its music in your heart as well.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 23, 2011

The Songcatcher: A Ballad Novel
by Sharyn McCrumb

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Signet
  • ISBN-10: 0451202503
  • ISBN-13: 9780451202505