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Nowhere Else on Earth Hardcover – September 4, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Although not a single cannon is fired in Josephine Humphreys's quietly ambitious Nowhere Else on Earth, the lives of the inhabitants of Scuffletown, a poor Indian settlement on the Lumbee River in North Carolina, are in every way affected by the Civil War. The demand for turpentine, their principal industry, has dwindled to nothing. When they are not fending off or involuntarily "supplying" Union soldiers and marauding gangs, they are hiding their sons from the macks, their hostile Confederate neighbors (pink-faced Scottish farmers with names like McTeer and McLean), who are rounding up Scuffletown boys for forced labor in forts and salt works, from which few have returned.

Sixteen-year-old Rhoda Strong has seen both her brothers disappear into the woods to join this gang, headed by the handsome, charismatic Henry Berry Lowrie, the hope of Scuffletown--who keeps the young men alive through a series of crimes that inevitably escalate to match the cruelties of the macks. To her mother's distress, and to her own, Rhoda finds herself falling in love with Henry Lowrie, so obviously a marked man. When he notices her, and returns her love, she too becomes marked, dubbed the Queen of Scuffletown by her enemies and drawn into a larger history of suffering and revenge.

Writing from the vantage point of middle age, Rhoda resurrects the past, "hot as coals," in an obsessive act of remembrance, having studied and pondered her story for over 20 years.

One dog tooth is gone, and my monthly flow has dwindled to a spatter. I'm not as full as I used to be, my wrists are skinny, my knuckles are knobs. I'm starting to wear thin. This is the price of the years of thinking, the casting and recording of events and the frantic pen scratching past midnight, the hoarding of paper, the loneliness, the pages accumulating while I myself shrink down.
Rhoda's richly detailed and beautifully sustained fourth novel will recall, in the best ways, Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (also set in North Carolina, the most "Union" of the Confederate states), although Humphreys has given her heroine a fresh, strong voice, and in turn given a voice to Scuffletown. --Regina Marler

From Publishers Weekly

While Humphreys has been justly praised as a writer with her fingers on the pulse of Southern culture, she surpasses even her previous novels (Dreams of Sleep; The Fireman's Fair; etc.) in this spellbinding story of a largely forgotten remnant of Indians caught between opposing sides during the Civil War. Scuffletown, on the banks of North Carolina's Lumbee River, is home to the mixed-blood descendants of the original Indians in the area, desperately poor but hardworking families who eke out a living in the arduous turpentining trade. Other nearby residents are "the macks"AScots planters who hold the money and power, and own black slaves. During the last months of the Civil War, the lawless Home Guard, led by sadistic Brant Harris, conscripts boys from Scuffletown into forced labor building Confederate fortifications. Teenage narrator Rhoda Strong, daughter of a Scots father and a Lumbee Indian mother, relates the circumstances that lead her brothers to join renegade Henry Berry Lowrie, charismatic scion of Scuffletown's most respected family, in hiding out and defying Harris and his henchmen. In a narrative layered with indelibly memorable scenes, Humphreys depicts the moral ambiguities that beset Scuffletown's residents and the ironies of their precarious position; the sympathies of many are with the Yankees, yet they endure the depredations of Union troops as well as of marauding Confederates. The major irony, however, lies in Henry Lowrie's fate. Pursued by the profiteering hoodlums he has thwarted, Henry eventually becomes a thief in order to survive, and in time, an outlaw hunted for murder. He is arrested in the midst of his wedding to Rhoda, whose coming-of-age is the frame on which the novel rests. Humphreys constructs her intricately wrought plot with understated eloquence, and she breathes life into the landscape of this piney, swampy rural area. Each of a large cast of splendidly realized characters is informed by her understanding of the subtleties of human relationships when race is a factor. Most impressively, she illuminates a largely unknown facet of the Civil War, finding universal resonances in the suffering and quiet heroism of a beleaguered remnant of marginalized Americans. In its historically accurate delineations of the violence, greed and betrayal engendered by internecine conflict, and of corresponding bravery, sacrifice and heartbreak, this novel makes a powerful statement. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First edition (September 4, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670891762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670891764
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,264,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Set in the swampy, piney backwoods of North Carolina at the close of the Civil War in 1864, Josephine Humphreys' passionate, beautifully written novel evokes a time of struggle and helplessness in a proud insular community whose members trace their ancestry back to the Indians. Derisively dubbed Scuffletown by its "mack" neighbors (Scottish farmers mostly), known as "the settlement" to its inhabitants, the area subsists on turpentine manufacture, which has come to a halt with the war.
Narrator Rhoda Strong recalls those days of upheaval, tragedy and love from the vantagepoint of her middle years. She was 16, daughter of a stalwart Scuffletown woman and an outsider, a Scot, weaned from drinking by his wife and subject to bouts of depression.
As the story opens, Rhoda's mother, Cee, keeps the family inside their one-room, windowless ("because Cee said we're only inside at night and what good is a window then? Just one more thing to lock up.") cabin in the heat of summer to protect them, especially Rhoda's two brothers, from the Home Guard. The Home Guard is made up of "mack" neighbors, determined to spare their own boys by conscripting Scuffletown youth for forced labor at the Confederate forts and salt works.
It's a lawless time in the backcountry and the sadistic head of the Home Guard rules with impunity. After he kills two boys who escaped from the work gangs, Scuffletown's young men take to the woods, under the leadership of Henry Berry Lowrie, a charismatic, focused young man admired by the whole community, secretly loved by Rhoda.
But Cee is adamantly against the match, though she believes Henry "could turn out to be the best we've got. The best we've ever seen.
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By A Customer on December 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I know that anybody who liked Cold Mountain will love Nowhere Else On Earth. The details here are even more finely written and complex. The wrenching plot builds on the history of a fascinating, underexplored corner of the East Coast--a mostly Lumbee Indian community in North Carolina--and a perspective on the Civil War I had never even pondered before. Surprising and very eye-opening. I just love Josephine Humphrey's knack for beautiful speech, especially the way it reflects the colors and metaphors of Southern talk. At the same time the characters she creates (esp. Rhoda Strong) are so astute about human nature, and so wise, I'm always wishing I could meet them. THose of you who enjoyed Dreams of Sleep and Fireman's Fair will go crazy over this one. I think the historical novel really shows off her strengths as a writer.
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Format: Paperback
Review by Jillian Abbott
Nowhere Else On Earth by Josephine Humphreys is an historical novel with equal emphasis on history and fiction.
In terms of history, the book stays close to known facts. But Humphreys doesn't stop there. In inventing a first person memoir, she creates a subjective, indeed, feminine, history. "Mine is only a single and limited testimony, one woman's version. . ."
There is mischief in her narrator, the curious Rhoda Strong. She is game even to examine and question the true nature of history, racial prejudice and scapegoating, all described in such a way as to render today's incidences of ethnic violence comprehensible: ". . . it wasn't an English that sliced him . . . [it was] his own neighbor! . . . We were neighbor against neighbor."
In fictional terms the characters and events are portrayed with grace, subtly, and depth. Gaps in the story are filled by citing period newspapers. Yet there is an irony here as when, after drawing considerably from the press, Rhoda points out the divergence between the life she actually leads and the one portrayed by the media.
But in creating this personal history, Humphreys is again playing with us. What is the line between the personal and the political?
In the Prologue, supposedly written on November 3, 1890, the feisty and wise Rhoda sets out her intentions and hopes for her narrative and outlines her view on the nature of history, stating that nobody will ever be able to render the story of Scuffletown complete and objective, "just as a soldier can never describe a whole battle - only his piece of it . . .
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By A Customer on September 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In 1864 Scuffletown, many mixed-breed descendants of the native Lumbee Indian Tribe laboriously toil at the turpentine business. The group is extremely poor but work hard to help their families survive. Living nearby are wealthy and powerful Scottish plantation owners who still own black slaves. As the Civil War winds down, the residents of Scuffletown struggle with the Home Guard that conscripts their young males into building for the Confederacy. The Union soldiers are as ugly to town residents. The townsfolk want the war to go away so they can move on with their lives.

For defying the Confederacy, local citizen Henry Lowrie and some other men hide in the nearby swamps to escape his fellow Carolinians wrath. Eventually, Henry turns to robbery to survive and ultimately is accused of murder. As Henry makes love with teenager Rhoda Strong, his gentle father is hung as retribution for Henry's actions. He seeks revenge, but finds time to marry his beloved Rhoda before fleeing from the area during Reconstruction.

NOWHERE ELSE ON EARTH is an incredible accomplishment that showcases the talent of Josephine Humphreys. Rhoda narrates the story line as she looks back over the years to the havoc caused by the Civil War and the Reconstruction on her indigent people. The characters are fully developed especially the interrelationships in which race rules even amidst the Northern Army. The insightful plot provides a unique look at the Civil War that allows readers to grasp the torment yet valor of a small group under siege from all sides. Ms. Humphreys uses historical facts to bring to life a People during an era when the rights of a small minority are trampled.

Harriet Klausner
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