I enjoy reading debut novels. It’s like rolling the dice; they can be really, really badly written. Sometimes, however, a book will present a new voice, one that is unique and interesting. Leah Weiss, the author of If the Creek Don’t Rise, is a new author to keep an eye on. Her writing is beautiful.
Beautiful writing about a beautiful and troubling area of the United States – the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina in the 1970s.
Young Sadie Blue is no sooner married when her new-husband Roy Tupkin begins beating the hell out of her just for the fun of it. A mere girl, pregnant with his child, she doesn’t quite know what to do or where to turn. She is surrounded by adverse poverty and by people who have never been more than a few miles from their home. Crippled by ignorance, drug and alcohol abuse, and a reliance on a belief in magic (the area’s “healer” walks around with a crow living in her hair), her family and friends are of little help.
Enter the new school marm who is not from around these-here parts, who takes Sadie under her wing and tries to help her and others. Every time she turns around, however, she is met with obstacles and mistrust and ignorance.
The story is told from 10 different viewpoints, and I frankly found it utterly confusing. The storylines are related, it’s true. It’s also true that the author does a very good job of giving each narrator a unique voice. Nevertheless, 10? Really?
Sadie knows the only way she will survive is to get rid of her husband, who is basically evil incarnate. The twists and turns of the novel are interesting, as is the seemingly realistic dialogue. The dialogue, in fact, seemed so realistic that I often had a hard time understanding what the characters were saying.
The novel has no “good guys” and “bad guys” (well, except for Roy Tupkin). Instead, each character has an interesting blend of characteristics, thereby eliminating caricatures. The ending was completely unexpected and left me squirming a bit.
If the Creek Don’t Rise is not a cheerful look at the hills of North Carolina. It is grim and depressing. I recommend it with that caveat.