Friday, May 18, 2012

Authors Tent: Appalachian fiction

The authors' tent at Mountain Spirits is filling up. Many authors will have books about regional history or memoirs about growing up in the region.  Michael Abraham—who was at the 2011 festival with his books Harmonic Highways; Union, WV; and The Spine of the Virginias—will have his novel, Providence, VA, with him this year.

Set in a tiny town not far from Fries, Providence, VA might be classified as  Appalachian dystopian fiction with an element of magical realism. When an electromagnetic pulse wipes out all electronic gizmos all along the East coast, chaos reigns.

Seventeen-year-old Samantha Reisinger, a classical violinist who recently expanded her repertoire to include traditional Appalachian music, finishes her set on the stage at the Galax Fiddlers Convention, just as the lights and sound go out. Soon folks find that their cars won't start, cellphones won't work, and anything else electronic is dead. Sammmy's ride back to New Jersey has already gone and her parents are in Paris, so she is stuck. However, Quint's old truck has no electronic parts and it still runs. He invites Sammy and several others—including Jamaal, a black professor/banjo player—to ride with him home to the small rural town of Providence. He drops several locals off along the way and arranges for Jamaal to stay with Emily, a midwife. Sammy stays with Quint and his reclusive wife, who spends most of her time away from the house and rarely speaks.

Sammy, used to a wealthy lifestyle, learns to adapt to living in an old farmhouse, which at least has an outdoor pump, a woodstove, and an outhouse.  Many in the area do not fare as well. There are many deaths—including some murders and suicides. There is little available food, except what folks have grown themselves. Except for midwife Emily and a local herbalist, there is no medical care. There is also little protection from thieves and murderers. And therein lies the story

Providence, VAbecause of its adult themes, language, violence, and sexual content—isn't for young people. However, Abraham's premise is intriguing, and those who've wondered what would happen if our way of life suddenly ended will find his ideas compelling. You can read some sample chapters here.

While Michael will not be able to attend this year's festival, his books—including this one—will be for sale in the Authors Tent.