About the Book
Book: The Melody of the Mulberries
Author: Tonya Jewel Blessing
Genre: Historic Southern Romance
Release Date: September 16, 2019
Accompanied by friends and foes, matters of the heart complicate life for Coral and Ernest. Relationships must be journeyed carefully.
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About the Author
More from Tonya
As a child, one of my favorite books was Cynthia Rylant’s “When I Was Young in the Mountains.” Growing up in rural Ohio, near the border of West Virginia, my home is considered part of Appalachia. I’ve always been drawn to folk music and the backcountry. I remember watching the television adaptation of Catherine Marshall’s “Christy” when I was younger. There is just something fascinating about living off the grid, regardless of the time period: creating a unique community that is self-sustaining and learning what makes it flourish and what holds it together. Set in late 1920s in the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, Tonya Jewel Blessings’ “The Melody of the Mulberries” presents a wonderful glimpse into this experience.
“The mulberry tree that shaded her from the afternoon sun sang a melody of obedience. It grew, blossomed, and bore fruit in submission to God. All flora and fauna flourished in Big Creek through obedience to the Maker of All Things.”
Despite not having read the previous book, I decided to take a chance and read “The Melody of the Mulberries” anyway, and I am glad that I did. If possible, I would recommend reading “The Whispering of the Willows” first to set the foundation for this sequel, but it is not a prerequisite. I was a bit confused for the first chapter or so; my main problem was keeping the characters straight and remembering who was who, but then again I’m terrible with names, so that could have just been my personal issue. As the story progresses, the main events from the first book receive mention, which helps establish the plot of this second book.
My favorite element was the presentation of beliefs, the amalgamation of Christianity and folklore, and how Ernest in particular does his best to disenchant others from superstitions and lead them instead to Christ. As a teacher, “Ernest thought that education was one of the best ways to combat mountain mysticism.” His wisdom in both book knowledge and spiritual matters reveals his altruistic nature: “He had choices to make. He could choose to let others dictate his life, choose to direct his own life, or make the right choice and allow God to dominate his thoughts and actions.” Two of the other main characters include his sister Coral, 16, and his fellow teacher, Lottie. Although young, Coral is attuned to the voice of God and determined to follow where He leads her, even if it means leaving home to visit a convicted felon who harmed her family. I loved her conviction! Lottie doesn’t take center stage, but her actions prove her to be an encourager and supporter. Something that stood out to me throughout the narrative was how the characters use hymns and songs to talk to God and to minister to others. So often when I am praying or when I read a Scripture verse a Christian praise song or hymn comes to mind, and they can be such a beautiful part of worship!
“The Melody of the Mulberries” does not shy away from tough subjects. It deals with wedlock, race relations, and other issues that continue to be prevalent today, but it is a clean read. Each chapter begins with an epigraph that states an Appalachian folk belief and has an image of a black raspberry branch, with a leaf image used to divide the sections of each chapter. The author’s affinity for alliteration made me smile while reading. It took a few chapters for me to become accustomed to the Appalachian dialect, more so because I was reading it instead of listening to it, but I appreciated its inclusion in the characters’ dialogue because it enhanced the story’s authenticity. As such, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in mountain life, godly living, evangelizing, and tackling challenging topics.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through CelebrateLit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
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