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The Marrowbone Marble Company
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on March 19, 2016
“The Marrowbone Marble Company” is a very unexpected novel. From its mouthful of a title to the rather bland and quiet few opening pages the reader is not given a hint at the ride they are in for. The novel starts off slowly, and then unexpectedly and out of nowhere you have fallen under its spell.
The text is written in the third person with the author letting us in and out of a multitude of characters’ heads, often times from sentence to sentence. We even get into the heads of minor characters, and as a result the novel and the world created has a very well rounded feeling. It is real.
I really don’t want to get into plot devices in this review. One of the joys for me while reading it was that I had no idea what was coming next. The text is episodic and takes place mainly in West Virginia between 1941 and 1969. The civil rights struggle is a key element in the story.
A delightful moment in the novel is the chapter that deals with the first service of the “Land of Canaan Congregational Church”. It ends up being a key scene in the novel though you would never think that while reading it. The manner in which it is written is an excellent example of the strengths of the style in which the author, Glenn Taylor, alternated point of view to great effect.
Every time I picked up the novel I was absorbed and it reads astonishing quickly. For the last 60 or so pages you will be loath to set the text down.
A criticism that some have leveled at “The Marrowbone Marble Company” is that it was preachy and too political. I’m not sure that it gets political in the sense of pitting republicans against democrats. It is West Virginia in the mid twentieth century, everyone is a democrat. Rather it is about good and bad people, and they fill every spectrum of humanity. The text can get preachy, but I really did not mind. In fact, I was emotional a few times while reading, and I was not prepared to be. Yes, lines like “I think God made all people good and then some of em get taught bad.” is sentimental, but so what! It’s also true!
Throughout the novel Mr. Taylor reveals information in a manner that gives you more details about a person or situation at a time that you are not anticipating it. He does this seamlessly. It is a mark of a very good writer.
After you have finished the book, go back and reread the Prologue. You will appreciate it on a whole other level. I love books that do that.
This text was an unexpected find and a great pleasure to read. Can’t say anything better about a book than that!
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on November 17, 2014
Very good local color. A good read. Glass business was well
presented. I lived in Huntington in the 70's and knew many who tried to
create a racially diverse community. Hard to do in my native WVA where racism has deep
patterns and fraternizing with the "other" was dangerous. I wish the story had been split
into two novels. The scope seemed too much under one cover.
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on May 22, 2010
Did we ever, down on our knees in the long-ago dust, with thumb to crystal taw, imagine our rainbow-hued marbles as a product of Utopia? Naw. Our minds were on "Winner Take All!"

It would be left to the brilliance of somebody like Glenn Taylor (of which there may be no other) to build an enthralling morality tale, swirling with character, incident and color, on a dimestore toy few electonics-addicted modern kids would likely know, or covet.

But it was marbles, made of scrap glass in a rickety old furnace, that paid for the autonomy of the civil, deeply decent community of Marrowbone, in the rough-cut hills of West Virginia. Utopian it was, under the smoke of its ceaseless industry, in a time of national upheaval -- the 1960s, age of peace-marching hippies and social atrocities, a crippling war in Vietnam and the all-out battle for human rights, in America.

Taylor's Marrowbone is a beautifully-described microcosm of Appalachian attitudes and characters, sometimes dubiously abetted by friends from the side of Chicago where violin cases did not mean Barn Dance Tonight. It is the realm of the Bonecutter twins, Wimpy and Dimple, infinitely wise, unwashed old men who are eerily in tune with the earth, and a welcome comic relief. It is white people and black people living side by side, working for survival in mutual respect -- in a time when such arrangements could incur wrath and violence from bystanders, and scant protection by The Law.

And, the makers of The Law, and enforcers thereof, included an element of vile crooks, mashers, bullies and oppressors sorrier than excrement. Yeah, not a lot has changed.

Taylor knows, and draws so well, the facets of Appalachian human nature that take just so much pushing around, before insult begets incendiary response. Marrowbone founder Loyal Ledford, soul-scarred veteran of World War II, personifies these qualities, trying to keep peace for the welfare of his family and neighbors. Pacifist village preacher Don Staples --while he lives -- keeps a scriptural rein on Ledford, while some of us nearer Ledford's native urges are breathing harder and turning redder, under such restraint. Well, suffice it to say that beloved Preacher Staples is a fragile old man whose time does sadly come, on the same day his role-model Martin Luther King is murdered.

It is for each of us who might have debated Staples to wonder what Jesus WOULD have done, confronted by the suited scum's assault on Ledford's young daughter, and the near-murder of his innocent, autistic son. Were the money-changers Jesus thrashed out of the temple more heinous than rapists and child-maimers?

The Marrowbone Marble Co. is a marvelous book for people who love to ponder justice, who care for history, and above all, for us who just love a fascinating story, exquisitely told. Yes, there are soft spots, like in a fine pound cake that could have stood another 10 minutes in the oven. But nothing is ruined, and the few becalmed moments only make the final chapters more delicious.

A keeper, and highly recommended.
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on March 1, 2016
I loved The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart and, to a slightly lesser extent, Hanging at Cinder Bottom. Unfortunately, this one is not up to the very high standards Taylor established with the other two novels. It almost feels as if he wrote this one first, his editors suggested he go back to the drawing board, and then this was released after the success of Trenchmouth. Reminds me of Harper Lee and Mockingbird / Go Set a Watchman. Further, the protagonist in Marrowbone is an almost too-good-to-be-true, blue collar version of Atticus Finch, waging a one-man war against racism. The biggest problem I had with the book is its overhanging sense of doom--this reader, at least, felt as if each scene was a set-up for some tragic event. Yet when none occur (well, at least no great tragedy), there is a feeling almost of being used or manipulated by the author. After enough of that, I almost didn't care anymore. I'd skip this book and stick with Taylor's other two, excellent books.
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on May 9, 2015
This one got a little preachy in the middle although the points were valid. I LOVE the Bonecutter brothers and and the whole WV mountain culture is fascinating. I won't SPOIL but parts of the last chapter seemed pointless.
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on September 12, 2017
good book
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on May 26, 2010
Marrowbone Marble Factory is the story of the civil rights movement. Its seeds were in World War II where black and white soldiers fought together and got to know someone `different'. Loyal Ledford is one of these Vets. As he returns from war to his native West Virginia, marries, starts a family and wrestles with his war demons he decides to live fully rather than rely on whiskey as his father had. He's descended from Native Americans and for generations his family lived apart in the mountains to avoid prejudice and its violence. Loyal becomes tired of the status quo at Mann Glass with it's racial and class hierarchy. He quits this and starts his own company. Two older cousins still live up in the mountains on ancestral land and with their guidance he founds a utopian society that includes blacks and whites working together. The surrounding community objects but he's able to win some of them over by enticing them with jobs as well as food and clothing charities. Black and white children grow up together and take up the civil rights banner alongside the larger movement headed by Martin Luther King and others. As we all know the 60's were a turbulent time when people at the forefront of the movement were no longer willing to stay quiet though they were determined to be non-violent.

Ledford remains loyal to two men he befriends during the war. One is an Italian Chicagoan with ties to the mob. The other is Mack, a black man who works in the same glass factory with Ledford and joins him as an equal in his Marble Factory. As so often occurs the women are left to work out the day to day reality of the men's dreams with Mack's wife Lizzie and Ledford's wife Rachel becoming friends in order to raise their children side by side. I liked how Taylor worked earnestly to make this struggle real. There were some ugly and violently entrenched prejudices as well as long standing family feuds on the white's parts as well as a sense of entitlement on their part towards blacks. There were a few characters who were slowly or suddenly able to overcome such ugliness however not so much because of principles, at least not at first. They realized they couldn't live with such hatred anymore. It was destroying them. Or they saw the practical side of things. Change had arrived. They could either join in peacefully or keep kicking against the inevitable so they joined the idealists. The book was also realistic in showing the violence these changes stirred up. Taylor never looks away from that. For those of us who watched the 60's from our couches this book will be eye opening. It was for me.
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on June 26, 2010
I found it difficult to assign a rating to The Marrowbone Marble Company. The book is set in Huntington WV. I was raised in western Pennsylvania and had relatives in West Virginia. So I was excited to read this book. During the first part, my excitement continued. The writing was good and the story of a marine at the beginning of World War II in Guadalcanal was moving. I believed Glenn Taylor captured the difficult, sometimes awful, existence Loyal Ledford had as the Japanese tried to capture the island with good friends dying. I felt how an experience like this could impact someone for the rest of their lives. When he returned home wounded, he had a difficult time readjusting to life, marriage, and fatherhood. My father was in World War II, and I believe many who went off to fight, especially marines, came back home significantly affected by it. They were unwilling to discuss it and just wanted to move forward with their lives.

During the rest of the book, Loyal Ledford dealt with the racial injustices and events of the 1950s and 1960s. At this point, I found the story and the ideals attempted at the Marrowbone Mable Company very insightful, but the character development did not come through. I found that it was hard to identify with most of the characters and to understand their motivation and actions. This was a difficult time in our nation's history and tremendous cruelty based on the color of a person. I found myself wanting to understand and experience this, but the characters and story line did not produce. As I stated at the beginning, I found it difficult to rate this novel, but in the end, I would not recommend it.
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on April 22, 2015
Very insightful
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on January 1, 2011
I expected this book to give a story, a saga, of the beginning of a company that makes marbles. Got nothing of the main character's intent to build a company. What I got for instance is a meeting of characters and their mundane conversations. I found the novel dull and lifeless. I didn't finish the book. I didn't want to bother.
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