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Clay's Quilt (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – February 26, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 103 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A deep love for home suffuses this heartfelt, well-crafted debut novel set in the Kentucky hills. Clay Sizemore, a young coal miner from a big family and a small town, never doubts that he will live out his life in the place where he was born. His mother, Anneth, was killed when he was only four, and he never knew his father, but he is surrounded by the people he loves: his big-hearted, God-fearing Aunt Easter; Dreama, the beautiful cousin he loves like a sister; and Cake, his party boy best friend. Clay and Cake work hard, and play hard at the local honky-tonk, but both want more from life than work, drink and empty sex. For Clay, the future is Alma, a passionate young fiddler separated from her abusive husband and estranged from her gospel-singing parents. But the past concerns him, too: given a box of his beloved mother's possessions, he pieces together her troubled history, while his great-uncle pieces a quilt from her clothing. Violence is inescapable in a place where even Clay carries a pretty pearl-handled pistol, and his mother's violent end foreshadows a death that threatens Clay and Alma's happiness together. The Kentucky landscape is suffused with nostalgia, snow making one character yearn for the past, lonesome autumn unlocking memory's vaults. Deftly written, replete with wisdom and remarkably light on sentimentality, this lovely novel makes plain the value of family and the preciousness of familiar ground. Author tour. (Mar. 30)Forecast: Healthy regional sales are indicated for this title; handselling will help. Strong reviews in national publications should move a few copies, too.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

When he was four years old, Clay Sizemore was stuck with his mother in a blizzard on a Kentucky mountain road, and she was killed. Raised by loving kinfolk, Clay as an adult still remembers the blood in the snow that day as he tries to piece together his mother's life, aided by the memories of family and friends, a long-lost letter, and a final gift from his great-uncle, who makes quilts. Joining Clay in his quest to find his roots is Alma, who wins his heart with the music she plays on her fiddle, but who brings a past that causes pain. First-novelist House, who works as a postal-service carrier in rural Kentucky, does a remarkable job of gradually unfolding his story and revealing his appealing cast of characters, all in a clear, cadenced prose. A lovely and accomplished literary debut. Michele Leber
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (February 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345450698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345450692
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Silas House is the author of four novels: Clay's Quilt (2001), A Parchment of Leaves (2003), The Coal Tattoo (2004), Eli the Good (2009), a play, The Hurting Part (2005), and Something's Rising (2009), a creative nonfiction book about social protest co-authored with Jason Howard. A new play, Long Time Traveling premiered in April 2009.

House serves as Writer-in-Residence at Lincoln Memorial University, where he also directs the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival. He is a contributing editor for No Depression magazine, where he has done long features on such artists as Lucinda Williams, Nickel Creek, Buddy Miller, Kelly Willis, Darrell Scott, Delbert McClinton, and many others. He is also one of Nashville's most in-demand press kit writers, having written the press kit bios for such artists as Kris Kristofferson, Kathy Mattea, Leann Womack, and many others.

House is a two-time finalist for the Southern Book Critics Circle Prize, a two-time winner of the Kentucky Novel of the Year, the Appalachian Book of the Year, Appalachian Writer of the Year (2009), the Chaffin Prize for Literature, the Award for Special Achievement from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and many other honors. Recently House was personally selected by the subject to write the foreword for the biography of Earl Hamner, creator of The Waltons. In 2005 he also wrote the introduction for the new HarperCollins edition of Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Moses.

House's work can be found in Newsday, Oxford American, Bayou, The Southeast Review, The Louisville Review, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Wind, Night Train, and others, as well as in the anthologies New Stories From the South 2004: The Year's Best, Christmas in the South, A Kentucky Reader, Of Woods and Water, A Kentucky Christmas, Shouts and Whispers, High Horse, The Alumni Grill, Stories From the Blue Moon Café I and II, and many others.

For his environmental activism House received the Helen Lewis Community Lewis Award in 2008 from the Appalachian Studies Association.

House is currently working on his fifth novel, Evona Darling.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As I went back over my list of books I read last year (2001), I found that I had read over 35 novels. There were the ones I had highly anticipated (the new Robert Morgan, the latest Sue Grafton), the ones that got so much hype that I thought I should buy a copy (THE CORRECTIONS), and the ones which had been recommended to me by friends whom I knew to be good, trustworthy readers. One friend would not shut up until I read PEACE LIKE A RIVER, and I have to admit that it was a beautiful novel. But another friend was adamant that I read this debut novel, CLAY'S QUILT, and now I realize that it was the the best surprise of the year, and my favorite book of 2001. House paints his world in subtle strokes--I was endeared to the characters before I ever realized that they had began to take hold of me. I was lost in the world that this book presents...after reading it I looked all over a map of Kentucky to find a place called Free Creek, but found no evidence of its existence. If I had, I would have probably set out to tour this beautiful little town. Still, I feel as if I have been there. I feel as if I know the people in this book. I am not usually the kind of reader that lets a book take hold of me in such a way, but I don't see how anyone could refuse the very real and raw power of CLAY'S QUILT. Absolutely beautiful.
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Format: Hardcover
Clay's Quilt is a powerful novel lovingly and masterfully pieced from the lives of the residents of Free Creek, Kentucky. Whether working, playing, laughing, praying, driving, crying, singing, fighting, dancing, hollering, or loving, these people do it passionately and with every fiber of their beings; these people LIVE. As a result, the novel itself lives and breathes and makes a joyful noise through the voices of its people as well as through their music. House's prose is lyrical yet unsentimental, fiercely grounded in real, concrete, sensuous and intimate details of everyday life. As the novel follows Clay Sizemore's struggle to find his place in the world and to make peace with a tragic past, we witness his tender and ferocious love for family and friends, his awe and gratitude at finally finding true love with a fiddle player named Alma, and his determination to make a home and a life for himself and his new family. House's voice is true and Clay's Quilt is a book both joyous and haunting, a story whose characters stayed with me long after I finished reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Vividly poetic in its description of Appalachian natural resources, heartwarming and honest in its portrayal of people linked by their love for their environs and family, Clay's Quilt is in the top three on my "re-read often" list. In this debut novel, Silas House deftly stitches a search for understanding and love with picturesque Appalachia.
Clay Sizemore is a character any reader will quickly befriend, not only because of the tragedy of losing his mother, but because Clay is a loveable young man. House's prose places the reader, like a close friend, beside Clay. Whether Clay is at work in the coal mine, walking the mountainside, or partying at the local honky-tonk, we are there with him, feeling the grit of coal dust in our eyes, smelling the air on Free Mountain, or throwing down a whiskey with a beer chaser on a Saturday night.
There is something to be said when a reader can feel for a story's rogues. Even the villains and the socially challenged characters in Clay's Quilt are people with whom a reader will identify. House takes us into their hearts, to the places that hurt, to those hidden areas where malice and evil ferment, torment and eventually explode with terrible consequences.
Life, human and natural, pulsates through the veins of this story. Long after its first reading, "Clay's Quilt" will warm the reader.
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By A Customer on April 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Clay's Quilt" sings, with a voice as mighty and true as that of the fiery honky-tonk singer, Evangeline, and as sweet and haunting as the music of the passionate and mysterious fiddler, Alma, who grace its pages. I realize that "quilt" is the defining metaphor here, but for me this book was like music - a richly textured, multi-faceted, and infinitely satisfying hymn to life at its utmost. This is an impressive first novel. The writer has created people that live and breathe, and a place so real that I wanted to get out a map of Eastern Kentucky and look it up. Clay Sizemore has only vague memories of the tragic event that brought him to his mother's sister's house on a freezing night over twenty years ago. His Aunt Easter and others in his mother's family have given him a warm, loving upbringing and he appreciates it but he's determined to find some answers about his mother and father. His concentration on the past, though, doesn't prevent him from living wholeheartedly in the present. Along with his family and friends, he loves and worships and fusses and fights with great enthusiasm. These people invest their all in life House's descriptions of the physical world are heart-stoppingly beautiful. His writing is lyrical, but not without bite. I can find very little wrong with this book's construction and pace. It starts with a mystery and builds toward resolution in an altogether satisfying way. I found it refreshing that House confines the preaching and explaining which some young writers can't seem to resist to the dialogue of his coming of age characters, where it's appropriate. Two small things about the book bothered me - the extensive use of dialect, which may be essential, but which I found distracting, and some misspelled words.Read more ›
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