…It was an Oprah Book Club pick; it was going to be depressing.
Somehow Gap Creek by Robert Morgan wound UP on my book wish list and low and behold, one of the kids sent it to me a Christmas or two ago.
I don’t remember wanting it, and I actually think I asked for Bill Cameron’s County Line, and somehow got it mixed UP with Gap Creek.
Either way, I got the book, laid it aside for a year or more, and recently picked it UP.
Possibly the most depressing piece of literature in the English Language, it is the story of a marriage.
That’s how it bills itself, Gap Creek, The Story of a Marraige.
The writer is very famous, generally on the best seller list, and did a wonderful job of writing the book in the first person mountain voice of Julie.
It really is good writing.
Julie “works like a man” and does more than any two people should have to do.
Her only brother is sickly, can’t work, and dies in her arms.
Then her father dies.
Hope springs eternal for the only time in the book when Julie meets Hank Richards, falls in love on the spot and marries him a short time later.
They leave Painter Mountain in North Carolina and go to Gap Creek, South Carolina, just over the line.
Morgan paints a picture of a hard scrabble life for this young bride and her immature groom.
He lands a job making brick for a cotton mill; they live with an old coot who has offered them free room as long as Julie takes care of the house.
I read on through the book knowing that something wonderful would happen only to find out that Hank’s judgmental mother comes to visit after apparently winning the “Mother in Law from Hell” award. The book doesn’t say that, but I’m sure she did.
Julie and Mr. Pendergast, the home owner, kill a hog, and while rendering the fat on the stove, Julie bumps one of the cans, a fire starts, Ma throws water on the grease fire, Mr. Pendergast goes back in for his pension money, gets burned badly and dies the following night.
Meanwhile, Hank gets fired.
One tragedy after another comes upon this couple like the plagues of Egypt.
I wanted to throw it away, but yet, I persisted.
Yes I plogged on, hoping against hope that something good would happen.
Not yet, one swindler after another comes and bilks Julie of what little money they have. A couple comes and claims to be the heirs of the property and allows Julie and Hank to stay but takes Papa’s silver as they leave.
Oh, and there’s a town drunk who comes and harasses them in the middle of the night about every other week or so.
Reading ahead, knowing that hope would spring eternal for the young couple, imagine my dismay when Julie delivers the baby BY HERSELF ON THE KITCHEN FLOOR while dumbass Hank is off fetching his momma who is going to help with the baby.
Hank and Ma Richards arrive only to find Julie passed out on the kitchen floor after birthing Delia, cutting the cord with her teeth, and near death.
Oh and then, the baby dies.
After that, Ma heads back UP the mountain, Hank has a meltdown, there’s an ice storm, a flood, the drunk comes back, the cow drowns in the flood, a mink kills all the chickens…I think you get it.
But I, like a fool, was sure something good was going to happen. Maybe they would find a pot of gold in the barn, or under Mr. Pendergast’s bed.
Or maybe some benevolent soul would give Hank a job.
But noooooooooooooooooooooooo not only did nothing good come along, the attorney for the real heirs shows UP, demands back rent, takes their possessions as they have no money to pay, evicts them and they leave for Hank’s mother’s mountain cabin with only what they can carry.
Some critics compared it (because of the writing) to Charles Frasier’s Cold Mountain.
They should be shot.
WORST BOOK EVER!