Sunday, August 11, 2013

Scene 2: book review, "Good Ground" by Tracy Winegar

I loved Tracy Winegar's first book "Keeping Keller" and her second book "Good Ground" didn't disappoint either.  If you're familiar with Joanne Bischof's Cadence of Grace series (and like it) then you'll love "Good Ground".

Here's the publisher's description:
Devastated after the sudden death of his cherished wife during childbirth in the fall of 1908, Jim Hooper loses the will to continue. But God plants the seeds of hope, and a new life begins to take root following the unconventional adoption of Ellis, an orphan baby. As a result of Jim's love, nurturing, and care, Ellis grows into a fine man, the spitting image--inwardly--of his daddy.

Decades later tragedy strikes again, this time for Ellis, and he finds his life turned completely upside-down after rescuing a young woman, Clairey, from a dangerous blizzard and an even more threatening existence. If their relationship ever stands a chance at thriving, it will have to survive ghosts from their respective pasts, endure the many hardships of running a tobacco farm in the rural Tennessee mountains, and Ellis will finally have to face the truth of his controversial origins.

The first few pages of "Good Ground" had me close to tears.  Reading of Jim Hooper's tragic loss of wife and child and his raw emotions following their deaths was painful.  And it should be.  Tracy was able to beautifully describe true grief... and the anger that often goes with it.  Then later, the healing that can come when we allow it.

The thing I loved (about both of Winegar's books) is the social/historical details.  In "Keeping Keller" it was the backdrop of raising an autistic child in the '50s when the mindset was that such children should be institutionalized.  I could taste the soda at the pharmacy and feel the restriction of Beverly Vance's wardrobe and lifestyle.  In "Good Ground" Ellis and Clairey must contend with the social ideology that if your family's bad, then you're bad too; the apple doesn't fall from a tree.  An ideology that each of us can relate to as we all have past regrets or skeletons we're running from.  And I loved that it was set in Pickett County Tennessee, a place where many of my family are from, but which I've never seen.  I got to experience the world my great-grandmother grew up in and it was lovely.  Well, all except the overly-judgmental, unforgiving neighbors.  Winegar does a great job writing the dialect of the era and area.  It's all very believable and realistic.

And how could you not love Ellis and Clairey?  I love the determination they both have to work hard at whatever it is that needs done and to be their own persons.  I love that (eventually) they allow each other that same growth and development.  Winegar did a great job developing the world of "Good Ground", but also the characters and the relationships.  They were real.  They made me sad.  They made me laugh.  They made me indignant and so frustrated that they were so thickheaded.  I was completely invested in their story.  So much so that I stayed up all night reading.  Literally.  I finished the book at 5 a.m.  I couldn't stop reading.  I had to know what would become of them.

I pretty much want to be Tracy Winegar when I grow up.  She has mad skills when it comes to creating a world and people that you don't want to leave.

I will say, there was a brief spot near the last 2/3 of the book when I started to get antsy and felt like the story was dragging a bit.  Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I was reading it at 3 in the morning? Honestly, other than that, I think it's brilliant and well worth the read.

Click here for a short review/mention of "Keeping Keller" also by Tracy Winegar.
Click here for my review of Joanne Bischof's book "Be Still My Soul".

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