Today I like: Moving forward
Not so much: the post office
Today I’m reviewing Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite. So have to start by saying…this is soooo my kind of book. Ghostly southern fiction? Bring in on. But before I get ahead of myself, here’s a summary…
When Nellie Clay marries Hobbs Pritchard, she gets more than a handsome face and a big house on the side of Black Mountain. The more she learns about her husband, the more she’s afraid of him. He’s not only heavy handed and neglectful, he’s hiding a few secrets…secrets that have to do with murder. The mountain itself seems to be warning Nelly to get away, in the form of ghostly visitors bearing murky messages. Unbeknownst to Nellie, her marriage to Hobbs will set of a chain of events that will bind her to the women around her, and the mountain itself.
Set in Depression-era North Carolina, and told in the voices of five very different women, Ghost on Black Mountain is the best kind of Southern spook story.
So like I said, this book is right up my street. I love books with speculative elements. I love period pieces. I love Southern fiction, and I’ve always been fascinated by Appalachian culture specifically. So, I was stoked to read Ghost on Black Mountain…but at the same time, since I had high hopes for the story, I could have easily been disappointed.
Ann Hite does not disappoint. She weaves the ghost story effortlessly through the narrative, so it never feels forced or unbelievable. The reader is just as surprised as Nellie when the spirits start to appear, but just as quickly accepts hauntings as a fact of life on Black Mountain. The voices of the five narrators are unique, and flow with an easy mountain inflection. Nellie grows throughout the story, almost painfully so, and the reader mourns her loss of innocence even as she mourns in herself. The other characters are interesting and fully realized, and Ann easily brings the “big picture” together with the varying narrative voices. The ending is surprising…and, not to give it away, a bit disturbing in a thought-provoking way.
Ghost on Black Mountain is truly one of the best books I’ve read in years. I devoured it in about three days…and I’d very much recommend it as a book club selection for any club that wants to step off the beaten path.
Congrats, Ann, on a great debut!
Ghost on Black Mountain was published by Gallery Book/Simon and Schuster in September 2011. Ann Hite has written short stories for numerous publications and essays. She lived in Atlanta. You can learn more about Ann on her website, www.annhite.com