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The Songcatcher by Sharyn McCrumb Review

Title: The Songcatcher

Author: Sharyn McCrumb

First published January 1, 2001

416 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780451202505 (ISBN10: 0451202503)

Rating: 4.04


Drawn by an unforgettable melody, Lark McCourry embarks on a journey to trace the origin of a song that has been passed down through the generations of her family. The haunting tune has traveled from a remote Scottish island to the hills of western North Carolina, weaving its way through the pages of American history.

As the memory of the song begins to fade, Lark realizes that her only hope of preserving her family’s legacy lies in the hands of the enigmatic mountain wisewoman, Nora Bonesteel, who has a unique ability to communicate with both the living and the dead. Join Lark as she uncovers the secrets of her family’s past and the true power of music in this captivating tale of love, loss, and the enduring beauty of tradition.

About the Author

Sharyn McCrumb is a talented Southern writer who has received numerous awards for her Appalachian “Ballad” novels. Her books, including The Ballad of Tom Dooley, The Ballad of Frankie Silver, and The Songcatcher, have been New York Times best sellers.

Ghost Riders, which won both the Wilma Dykeman Award for Literature and the national Audie Award for Best Recorded Books, is another one of her notable works. Atria, a division of Simon & Schuster, will be publishing her latest novel, The Unquiet Grave, in September.

This well-researched novel explores the story of West Virginia’s Greenbrier Ghost.

Due to her impressive accomplishments, Sharyn McCrumb has received several honors.

She was named a Virginia Woman of History by the Library of Virginia and a Woman of the Arts by the national Daughters of the American Revolution. In 2014, she was awarded the Mary Hobson Prize for Arts & Letters.

Her books have been recognized as New York Times and Los Angeles Times Notable Books.

Sharyn McCrumb is not only a celebrated writer, but also a sought-after speaker. She presents programs at universities, libraries, and other organizations throughout the US.

In addition to teaching a writers workshop in Paris, she has served as writer-in-residence at King University in Tennessee and at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York.

Editoral Review

The Songcatcher by Sharyn McCrumb takes the reader on a journey through the Appalachian Mountains with a story that is as much about music as it is about family, secrets, and the passage of time. McCrumb is a New York Times bestselling author and has been praised for her ability to merge history and fiction in her works.

The Songcatcher is no exception. Set in the early twentieth century, the book tells the story of the Lunsford family, whose ancestors have lived in the mountains for generations.

The main character, Malinda Blalock, is a strong-willed woman who, along with her twin sister, marries a soldier and joins the Confederate army as a man. The story traces Malinda’s journey through the war, her return to the mountains, and her eventual involvement with the folk music movement, as she becomes known for her ability to preserve traditional songs and their stories.

McCrumb has a unique style of storytelling that is both poetic and gripping, bringing the reader into the lives of the characters with a vivid sense of place and time. The Songcatcher showcases McCrumb’s talent for creating multidimensional characters who struggle with their own demons, while also dealing with the larger social issues of their time.

The portrayal of life in the mountains, from the poverty to the deeply ingrained traditions, is both illuminating and insightful. One of the strengths of the book is the way McCrumb interweaves historical events, such as the Civil War and the birth of the folk music movement, with the personal stories of the Lunsford family.

She skillfully integrates the music into the narrative, providing an education in itself on the origins and meanings of the traditional songs. The book also delves into issues of gender, race, and class, with characters facing discrimination and navigating the complex social hierarchies of the time.

However, The Songcatcher requires patience, as the pacing can be slow at times. The book is also heavily focused on the past, making it less accessible to readers who may not be familiar with the music or history of the area.

Additionally, some of the characters can be difficult to connect with, with their actions and motivations left somewhat opaque. Despite these limitations, The Songcatcher is a beautiful, thought-provoking novel that offers a glimpse into a world that is both foreign and familiar.

Its themes of identity, memory, and legacy are relevant to today’s world, where the clash of tradition and progress is an ongoing struggle. For fans of historical fiction, music lovers, or anyone looking for a thought-provoking read, The Songcatcher is a must-read.

We give it 4 out of 5 stars.