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Gap Creek : The Story Of A Marriage (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – October 2, 2000

3.8 out of 5 stars 539 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Oprah Book Club® Selection, January 2000: Robert Morgan's Gap Creek opens with one wrenching death and ends with another. In between, this novel of turn-of-the-century Appalachian life works in fire, flood, swindlers, sickness, and starvation--a truly biblical assortment of plagues, all visited on the sturdy shoulders of 17-year-old Julie Harmon. "Human life don't mean a thing in this world," she concludes. And who could blame her? "People could be born and they could suffer, and they could die, and it didn't mean a thing.... The world was exactly like it had been and would always be, going on about its business." For Julie, that business is hard physical labor. Fortunately, she's fully capable of working "like a man"--splitting and hauling wood, butchering hogs, rendering lard, planting crops, and taking care of the stock. Even when Julie meets and marries handsome young Hank Richards, there's no happily-ever-after in store. Nothing comes easy in Julie Harmon's world, and their first year together is no exception.

Throughout the novel, Morgan chronicles Julie's trials in prose of great dignity and clarity, capturing the rhythms of North Carolina speech by using only the subtlest of inflections. Clearly the author has done his research too--the descriptions of physical labor practically leap off the page. (Suffice to say, you'll learn far more about hog slaughtering than you ever dreamed of knowing.) Yet he resists the temptation to make his long-suffering characters into saints. Julie simmers with resentment at being her family's workhorse, and Hank flies into a helpless rage whenever he feels that his authority is questioned. In novels like The Truest Pleasure and The Hinterlands, Morgan proved his ability to create memorable heroines. In Gap Creek, he writes with great feeling--but not a touch of sentimentality--about a life Julie aptly calls "both simple and hard." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Whatever trials Job suffered were nothing compared to the tribulations that befall Julie Harmon Richards. Following the deaths of her younger brother and father, 17-year-old Julie takes one look at 18-year-old Hank Richards and falls in love. Following their marriage a month later, the two move from their North Carolina homes to Gap Creek, South Carolina, where Hank works at a cotton mill and Julie cooks and cleans for a Mr. Pendergast in exchange for room and board. Pendergast is fatally injured trying to rescue his hidden savings during a devastating fire, and Julie, now pregnant, gives all of Pendergast's money to a man who tells her he is the lawyer for the bank that holds the mortgage on the house. Gap Creek floods and the house is ruined. Julie's baby lives only for a few months. Finally, Pendergast's heirs show up, so Hank and Julie, now pregnant again, leave Gap Creek for an uncertain future. Although Morgan, author of The Truest Pleasure (1995), has written better novels, even readers numbed by the seemingly endless series of disasters will respect Julie's strength of character and wish her well. Nancy Pearl --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Oprah's Book Club
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 1st Scribner Paperback Fiction ed edition (October 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743203631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743203630
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (539 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,848,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a novel about a very poor young couple living in the Carolina mountains after the Civil War and their hard, hard lives. The work of day to day living back then was mind-boggling! The characters go through many trials and tribulations - fire, flood, extreme poverty, deaths of loved through and clean up after a flood; childbirth. This book reminded me of the book "Christy" and "Strangers in the Forest". Very realistic, very well written, amazing to us modern day folk. I only wish it had been longer, I hope there is a sequel featuring the young couple.
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Format: Hardcover
Gap Creek is a story of growing up, letting go, facing hard adversity, and overcoming loss. The life Julie and Hank lived was common at the turn of the century in 1900. When my relatives were young, their families had a smoke house, lived off the food from the garden, canned food for the winter, washed and boiled their clothes, and many other ways of life this book brought alive to me. It gave me a true appreciation for my ancestors' struggle just to maintain daily existence. Gap Creek teaches us a lesson too......hard work, faith, and endurance can see us through any hardship, just as Julie and Hank learn in the end. The book was well written.....Morgan's descriptive style made me either hungry, or wanting a cup of coffee just by the way his writing brought the smells to life! I thought the book was a very accurate depiction of Appalachian life in the late 1800's. I am so glad I lived through this turn of the century instead of that one! Julie's strength is to be admired. All in all, a very enjoyable read
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Format: Hardcover
This book was OK. Based on the recommendation of the book in "what we're reading" on this site, I had it on the pile of books "to read sometime" by my nightstand when Oprah chose it (and being a big Oprah fan, I immediately read it). One positive thing is that the heroine, Julie, is extremely likeable. However, there were plot elements that didn't make sense to me (if she is such a hard, tough, nononsense person, then how does she make the silly mistake that seems to trigger a chain of ruin in her and her husband's lives?) and the litany of one disaster after another was a little hard to take. Another plus was the detail in which farm work is described (very realistic if you've ever seen a hog butchered, by the way, or cleaned a turkey yourself). However, the only character that seemed to have any subtlety was the the heroine. Her husband, mother-in-law, and sisters are all flat characters that seem to have only one major character trait (negative) a piece. I didn't see what the point of the marital infidently scene was, since it doesn't contribute additional information to the characterization of the husband or the heroine and it doesn't seem to play any role in the plot (which is pretty one-toned, if you asked me). The very limited character development in this book "didn't bring me anything but down," sadly: Julie is a hard worker when we meet her and that doesn't change, but every time she has a moment of happiness, it's crushed. Nonetheless, these experiences don't seem to have any effect on her.
In short, the book is OK and I did read it all the way to the end, but I'm not sure it really rated the bestseller status that Oprah's selection is sure to give it. I'll have to read Oprah's website and find out why she selected it.
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By A Customer on January 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Well-written, great details about lifestyles of the time period. Great imagery. However, it was your typical grim hard-knock-life depiction of life in Southern Appalachia. It's not a feel-good story, actually it's quite depressing. It gives us insight into the difficulties that we will never suffer, and fills one with gratitude and thankfulness that this is not MY life.
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Format: Hardcover
This story of a young couple's hardships in the turn-of-the-century Appalachians gave me appreciation for our modern conveniences. I found myself yearning, however, for the honest hard work and satisfaction of living off the land. Morgan's style was crude at times--maybe intentionally--but I've read other novels that captured that same gritty character with a bit more passion. When Julie's newlywed sister comes to visit, for example, Morgan describes their laughter in every other paragraph. I got the point after the first two times. He could have plumbed the emotion and history with more feeling and depth...or maybe just more writing elbow-grease. But let's face it: this book works its way under your skin, demanding attention, or at least a reaction. Julie and Hank's relationship seems devoted, but more guarded than modern relationships. In the end, I enjoyed the coming together of the family, even through tragedy. The story had a message of hope, asking us to love others more than ourselves. Through its simple beauty and spartan writing, Gap Creek eventually made its way into my heart.
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Format: Hardcover
First, congratulations Mr. Morgan, you've made it! You're at the top of your career now, and it'll only get better (especially sales!). Great book...I read this 325 page book in 2 days and this is quick reading, but very heavy too. You will experience life of very poor folks living in the S.C. mountains and like Oprah says "you'll be glad you live in this day and age" after you read this. As in all of the Oprah picks, you have the opportunity to live in another world, another lifetime. Morgan's descriptions allow you to enter their world effectively and now I can't wait to read his other books...A great read, will be easy, quick reading...and very memorable.
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