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The Songcatcher Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Signet (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451202503
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451202505
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #897,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Skipping back and forth in time from the 18th to the late 20th century, and drawing on her own family history, McCrumb tells two stories in her appealing new novel, one heading toward, the other returning to, the Appalachians. In the present-day sections, 83-year-old John Walker is slowly dying in the eastern Tennessee town where he has lived most of his life, while his estranged daughter, Linda Walker better known as the country singer Lark McCourry is trying to make it home before he dies. She is also trying to recollect an old song she heard once at a family gathering, a song she hopes will round out her forthcoming album. But heading home, Lark is downed in the mountains in a small plane and trapped inside it. Meanwhile, Malcolm McCourry, one of Lark's maternal ancestors, narrates the story of his life, from the day in 1751 when English seamen kidnapped him at the age of nine from the Scottish isle Islay to the close of his life in the mountains of western North Carolina. Always he carries with him a song he learned aboard ship, which is then passed down to his descendants, each one remembering it at a crucial moment. McCrumb, an award-winning crime and mystery writer, has mixed historic and contemporary plots with success in the past (notably in She Walks These Hills and other novels in her Ballad series; some characters from the Ballad series reappear here), and she does so again, letting the past inform the present and generating a good deal of suspense in a novel that is not properly a mystery. Readers may come to feel that Lark McCourry, unlike the tune-miners looking to stake a copyright claim to every mountain song they hear, is the real songcatcher, the rightful inheritor of her family's music.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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

From Library Journal

Full of lore about Appalachia and early folk music, this book, read competently by James Daniels and Aasne Vigesaa, tells of contemporary singer Lark McCourry's search for a folk song once heard at a family gathering. McCrumb also interweaves the life history of Malcolm McCourry, one of Lark's maternal ancestors, who was kidnapped at age nine from the Scottish Island of Islay and who learned the song aboard an English ship in 1759. It accompanied him to Morristown, NJ, where he became a lawyer and then back to North Carolina when, after leaving his grown family, he went to homestead in the wilderness. Passed down through the generations, the song had been nearly lost when Lark began her search. The author blends the historic and contemporary threads smoothly, building suspense as the story progresses. Dispelling myths about Appalachian people as uneducated hillbillies, she populates the novel with strong, talented, well-defined characters. A mystery and crime writer, McCrumb is perhaps best known for She Walks These Hills and The Ballad of Frankie Silver, which was nominated for a SEBA award. The tape quality is excellent; recommended for all public libraries. Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

The editorial review is excellent.
V. L. Wilson
Although somewhat overlong and possibly 2-3 too many characters and plot strings to be a real classic, it's still a "good read" and the music very haunting.
Charismatic Creature
If you enjoyed this book I highly recommend all in the "Appalachian Series".
Carolyn Donoho

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By talpianna on October 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This, my friends, is literature. A lot of the "important" writers taught in lit classes today wrote popular fiction--even detective fiction--in their day: Dickens, Scott, even Jane Austen; and I suspect that a century or so from now, when the likes of Fay Weldon and Philip Roth are forgotten, people will still be reading and enjoying writers like Terry Pratchett and Sharyn McCrumb.
The latest entry in her Ballad Series, with titles drawn from traditional songs, has inspired me to write my first online review, even if I only gave it 4 stars--only because I like a couple of the other books better. I'd have given it 4 1/2 if I could have figured out how. This one is not, like the earlier ones, about murder, though a murder does make a brief appearance; it is about mysteries of time and heredity and the search for an elusive folk song. Nine-year-old Malcolm McCourry first heard "The Rowan Stave" in 1751 aboard the English ship which kidnapped him from his native Islay; after a career at sea and as a prosperous lawyer in New Jersey who fought in the Revolution, he took it with him when he moved west around the turn of the century when he moved west along the Wilderness Road and settled in western Carolina to found a new family. He also took along the family curse: that each McCourry firstborn would never come first with his or her parent; someone else would always come between.
Lark McCourry, moderately famous folksinger, doesn't know about the curse, but is familiar with its result. Returning to Hamelin, Tennessee, to see her dying father and to trace the song she remembers hearing as a child, she is lost in the mountains when her small plane crashes.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By sweetmolly on November 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Sharyn McCrumb does for Appalachian history what a songcatcher does for ancient Scottish ballads. She is surely one of the great storytellers of the century and one of the most diverse. She writes intricate mysteries, comic scenarios of Science Fiction buffs, and her lovely, haunting Ballad series.
"Songcatcher" is anchored by Malcolm McCourry, the forefather, who is shanghaied from Islay, Scotland at age nine to become a seaman, lawyer, and early Appalachian mountaineer. His legacy is an obscure Scottish ballad, "The Rowan Stave." His story, continued by his descendents, is interwoven with the modern day protagonists. The early McCourrys are so vivid; the modern folks frequently seem pale in comparison. The "curse" Malcolm passes down is his first born child and succeeding generation's first born children will be unloved and unappreciated. The subsequent narrators are all first-born children, each baffled and hurt by the McCourry parent; yet they in turn unconsciously carry on this harsh legacy.
The tale is full of ghosts, faeries, and things that go bump in the night. The reader can believe or not believe; but they are there in a most matter-of-fact way. There were a few too many storylines in the present-day world. Joe LaDonne being trapped in the forest under old plane wreckage did not forward the story, and was a needless distraction. There was no "mystery" per se, yet everything was a mystery. Like the expert she is, Ms. McCrumb entices us with every new revelation and delivers a fast paced and gripping story.
"Songcatcher" is a worthy addition to the superb Ballad series.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Michael Butts on August 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Sharyn McCrumb's Ballad Series is one of the best out there. Ms. McCrumb is a master of plot and character development. Weaving fiction and non-fiction into a wonder story, the author gives the reader a real understanding of how this country developed. Ms. McCrumb also has a great and wonderful understanding of the people who settled and live in the rural Appalachian Mountains. Yes, there really are people living just like Ms. McCrumb describes in her books. I know I'm from there.
I'm not going to bore you with a recap of the plot. If you want that read one of the other reviews. The Songcatcher is a little bit different than her other ballad series books, if that doesn't make it any less entertaining. There is no murder mystery, but there is plenty of mystery. So if you enjoy a good mystery, written very well. This is the book for you. In fact, you don't even have to be a mystery reader to enjoy any of Sharyn McCrumb's books. She is a wonderful writer and I feel that anybody, who enjoys a good book, would enjoy Sharyn McCrumb.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Continuing in her successful ballad series, Sharyn McCrumb reaches back to her own family tree for the source of this satisfying tale. The reader is immediately captivated by the story of young Malcolm McCourry, kidnapped in the 1700's, by sailors from his native Scotland and brought to the colonies. On board the ship, the young boy hears a haunting ballad which stays with him his entire life.
The focus of the novel is the search for this ballad by a contemporary folk singer, McCourry's descendent. She is the "songcatcher" of the title.
Along the way, the author gives us an informal tutorial in how the classic appalachian ballads were "found" by musicologists. The author's love of her heritage is felt in every page.
Its also great to see some of the familiar characters from the earlier ballad novels here as well. Altogether, this is one of her very best. Couldn't put it down.
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More About the Author

I am an award-winning Southern writer. I am probably best known for my
Appalachian "Ballad" novels, set in the North Carolina/Tennessee mountains. These books include New York Times Best Sellers She Walks These Hills and The Rosewood Casket, which deal with the issue of the vanishing wilderness, and The Ballad of Frankie Silver, the story of the first woman hanged for murder in the state of North Carolina; The Songcatcher, a genealogy in music; and Ghost Riders, an account of the Civil War in the Appalachians.

My newest novel St. Dale, the Canterbury Tales set in NASCAR, was published by Kensington Books of New York in 2005, and is currently a nominee for the Library of Virginia Literary Award in Fiction and a finalist for its People's Choice Award.

Honors include: the 2003 Award for Literature given by the
East Tennessee Historical Society; AWA Outstanding Contribution to
Appalachian Literature Award; Chaffin Award for Achievement in Southern
Literature; Plattner Award for Short Story; and AWA's Best Appalachian
Novel.

I was the first writer-in-residence at King College in Tennessee. In 2001 I
served as fiction writer-in-residence at the WICE Conference in Paris, and
in 2005 I was honored as the writer of the year at the annual literary
celebration at Emory and Henry College. (And I was the first Southern writer to take along a NASCAR driver to that literary seminar. Thank you, Ward Burton!)


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