Literary Friday: The Rosewood Casket

Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"Randall Stargill lies dying on his southern Appalachian farm, and his four sons have come home to build him a coffin from the cache of rosewood he long has hoarded for the special purpose. Meanwhile, like a vulture hovering over prey, a local real estate developer is readying an offer for the farm that will be extremely hard for the heirs to refuse as soon as the old man is gone. And at the same time, mountain wise-woman Nora Bonesteel, Randall's sweetheart of long ago, must bring to light a small box to be buried with Randall - a box containing human bones. Thus the stage is set for a tale of family strife, dark secrets, and haunting legends that mix present with past tragedies among mountain people torn between tradition and change. In a style both lyrical and beautifully detailed, with a narrative flow that moves seamlessly from mystically glowing Indian lore and time-burnished tales of Daniel Boone to the sharp-edged, sometimes violent realities of the Appalachia of today, novelist Sharyn McCrumb captures the unique flavor of the region that she has made her own fictional realm as she unfolds her tale of mystery and revelation, mounting tension and shattering denouement."


The Rosewood Casket was recommended to me, for my love of magical realism. And I am very grateful for that recommendation! This novel is set in Appalachian Tennessee, basically a foreign country to me, but McCrumb details both the culture and the landscape in a beautifully poetic way.


At its heart, this is not just a story of the Stargill family, but of the timeless transition of land-tied creatures being forced to move, and indeed, of consequences. It's the story of Daniel Boone, the Cherokee, indigenous species that have been shoved out by invasive species, and the development of farm land into McMansions and planned communities in the 1980's. 


But it's also the story of a collection of men and women that McCrumb paints as three-dimensional, realistically flawed, and equally broken. There is no sole protagonist or antagonist, though Clayte is most often the narrative voice- it's truly an ensemble piece. And one that plays with your expectations.


I highly recommend it for fans of magical realism, place-centric fiction, historical-influenced contemporary stories, those who enjoy the Appalachian culture, and adults who can relate to having dysfunctional families. 

Rainy Day Ramblings

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