By Melinda Clayton
ISBN 13: 978-1937227616, paperback $13.95; Kindle ASIN B008FRA3E8 $4.99 NOOKbook 2940033289530 $4.99, also available from Smashwords for $4.99
I have rarely read a book that has moved me as much as Entangled Thorns has. It is a story of family honor, even when mistakenly given; of addiction; of dysfunction and strange as it may sound, of mountain pride and the strength of Appalachia.
In Entangled Thorns, Clayton once again brings readers into her fictional town of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia, this time through several entirely new characters with ties to Cedar Hollow from a childhood now almost thirty years past. It is the story of two girls, Beth and Naomi, who ran away from Cedar Hollow when they were in their mid-teens, following the death of their brother. It is the story of the pain and the dysfunction they fled, a dysfunction that still exists back in the hollows of Appalachia, regardless of the coming our “modern age” and the enlightenment it has supposedly brought to these mountains. It is the story of anger, denial and the hope that you can rise above the circumstances into which you were born. And it is quite possibly the best book I have read, beating out the likes of James Michener, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Mark Twain though it lacks the epic proportions of many of those works. Like the books by these writers Entangled Thorns stands to be remembered as a classic that describes an era and a people too little understood. It describes the life lived in the mountains of Appalachia, among child abuse and moonshine accurately and without the blinders of illusion that so many writers put over it to romanticize an issue they have little understanding of. It is as real as can be and because of this it speaks to the heart and the soul in a way that only truth can.
It is fiction, pure and simple, but it is stunning fiction at its best. In the stories of Beth, Naomi and their families, both current families and family of origin, Clayton weaves a colorful, though not necessarily pretty, picture of mountain life. Amid stories of sleeping on the tin roof on nights when the creek would rise up into the yard, and fishing and catching lightning bugs, is the story of a family of moonshiners who put their children to work as testers when they were still toddlers and of the legacy of pain and alcoholism that left behind. It is a story of the ability of the human spirit to rise above circumstances and seek something better like a plant searching for sun, and it is the story of secrets that have the power to destroy us even years later.
This book is real, it is deep and it is touching in a way few books are. It earns my highest recommendation.