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A Parchment of Leaves (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – August 26, 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

House offers a poignant, evocative look at the turmoil that plagues a rural Kentucky family during WWI in his solid second novel, which begins when Saul Sullivan takes a shine to a mysterious, beautiful Cherokee woman named Vine. Courtship quickly leads to marriage and a newborn girl named Birdie, but trouble surfaces when Saul's younger brother, Aaron, an unfocused dreamer who longs for a more fulfilling life than his country existence as a laborer, also becomes attracted to Vine. Aaron's opportunity to express his longings comes when Saul leaves to work at a logging camp, hoping to provide some luxuries for his family while supporting the war effort. Vine spurns Aaron's initial advances and manages to drive him away, but the younger brother returns with a young mixed-race bride from East Tennessee who looks exactly like Vine, and soon he is drinking heavily and exercising his formidable temper on his newly pregnant wife. Saul returns briefly to try to straighten out his brother but, when he departs, Aaron turns his attentions on Vine again, who shoots Aaron after he rapes her and goes after Birdie, then buries the body on top of a mountain near the family homestead. A slightly more original story line would have made this an exceptional novel, but House's lovely storytelling, graceful prose, strong characters and his feel for Southern rural life distinguish it. Agent, ICM. (Oct. 18) Forecast: Solid local sales are the bedrock on which this novel's success will rest, but strong reviews, a 15-city author tour and House's NPR connection (he is a frequent contributor) are certain to broaden House's audience.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In 1917 rural Kentucky, a young Cherokee woman named Vine, rumored to cast spells on unsuspecting men, falls in love with local Irishman Saul Sullivan, whom she eventually marries. This second novel by Appalachian writer House (Clay's Quilt) tells the story of Vine and Saul's tender relationship and the prejudice they face and eventually overcome. While Vine was not raised according to Cherokee customs, she is still aware of being seen as an outsider when she leaves her Cherokee community to be with her husband. People are drawn to her gentle and generous personality, however, and soon she forms enduring friendships with her hard-working mother-in-law, Esme, and feisty and independent midwife Serena. When World War I erupts and Saul temporarily takes a better-paying job far from home, Vine finds herself trying to ward off the unwanted advances of Saul's restless younger brother, Aaron, who declares his own love for Vine. A deep respect for the natural world and the enduring spirit of the human heart are what make this book worth reading and remembering. Recommended for all fiction collections.
Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (August 26, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345464974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345464972
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Following his well-received Clay's Quilt, Silas House continues to explore the meaning of family, love, home, and belonging. Unlike many popular novels today, House is never heavy-handed in his themes. A Parchment of Leaves unfolds itself as naturally to the reader as own lives unfold to us. His clear prose is welcoming and contains an undercurrent of description that reveals the simple beauties of the landscape and human relationships. The characters of Vine and Serena are so three-dimensional that you'll convince yourself they're real people. Curl up with your quilt, a cup of hot chocolate, and this book. Recommended for all readers, not just devotees of Southern literature.
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Format: Paperback
A beautifully written book by the author of CLAY'S QUILT, A PARCHMENT OF LEAVES takes us back to the early 1900's and the mountains of Appalachia. Vine, a young Cherokee girl, is rumored to have sent men to their graves by casting spells on them, for she is reputed to have special magical powers. The white men of the area fear her, especially as they pass her home on the way up the mountains to work on the construction of a mansion being built for a rich man named Tate Masters.

One day, Saul Sullivan and his brother Aaron are on their way up the mountain to help with the construction, and they pass Vine's house. Saul sees Vine for the first time and is instantly smitten, but she ignores him. A while later, she hears screams and finds that Aaron has been bitten by a poisonous snake. With her knowledge of Indian medicine, she saves his life.

Vine's life is changed forever. No longer does she live within the confines of the Cherokee community. The snakebite that nearly kills Aaron paves the way for Saul and Vine's courtship and soon they are married. She moves away from Redbud Camp and the Cherokee people, and moves in with her new husband and mother-in-law Esme, who live in a place called God's Creek.

Although Vine and Saul love each other, she misses her family terribly. However, her mother-in-law is very supportive of them, despite the rumors that have spread about Vine and her evil spells and the fact that she is a Cherokee. The two women become close, which helps to ease Vine's homesickness. She befriends the local midwife, Serena, who Saul mentions, is "crackerjack", but Vine ignores the comment and soon the two women are the closest of friends.

The people at God's Creek also accept Vine as part of their community.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A Parchment of Leaves is a beautifully woven story of life in the backwoods of Kentucky at the beginning of WWI. It is a story of a young white man who falls in love with a beautiful Cherokee girl. When they decide to marry, it is inevitable that she must leave her people and that they must go and make their life among his. Silas House tells their story of love, acceptance, prejudice, secrets and betrayals in an intricate manner, told in the voices of the people themselves. The ultimate search for love and forgiveness is a poignant tale. The decisions of which secrets are revealed and which ones are locked away and the friction that results is deftly revealed. The fear and the loneliness is so striking and intense, the pure love is so vibrant and the story so well imagined that this is a novel that stays in your heart.
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Format: Hardcover
Silas House can tell a story better than just about anybody writing today. He paints pictures with his words. His characters are real and heartbreaking and full of joy. I said all that when I read his first book, CLAY'S QUILT. But now that I've read his new one, A PARCHMENT OF LEAVES, I am absolutely stunned. It's the best book I've read in FOREVER and I've recommended it to everyone I know (and also bought copies for all my closest friends for Christmas) and everyone just absolutely loves it. So I think I'm safe in recommending it to you, Amazon customer, too. Silas House will be famous someday, but he should be already. I don't understand why this book hasn't been a blockbuster...it should be chosen by one of the talk shows (not because they choose the best books but because it gets some good books some well-deserved attention). READ THIS BOOK. It's beautiful
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By A Customer on November 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is beautiful. If this doesn't win House the national awards and wide readership he deserves, then something is very wrong. It's rare that an author is able to not only present a great story but also tell it in a style that is like poetry...STUNNING, INTERESTING poetry. The story is full of twists and turns and the ending will leave you breathless...simply the best, most perfect ending I've ever seen. Usually literary/lyrical books become bogged down in style. But House never bores the reader, never second-guesses the reader. This one goes on the Best Books of My Lifetime shelf.
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Format: Hardcover
The word pictures in A Parchment of Leaves drew me into the story so deeply I could barely breathe. Through the transitions of time and place I became a part of Vine, sharing her life, wanting to be with her. Redbud Camp and God's Creek became my world. I know these people through the heart of Silas House.
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Format: Paperback
"I had always found comfort in leaves, in their silence. They were like a parchment that holds words of wisdom," says Vine, the protagonist of Silas House's 2002 novel A PARCHMENT OF LEAVES. In the early 1900s, in the midst of WWI, Vine is a young Cherokee woman growing up with her family in Redbud Camp, a Native American settlement in the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky. Rumors throughout the area posit Vine as a witch, a mystical woman who can kill with her beauty and make snakes dance at her command. These whisperings keep outsiders away from Redbud Camp--until one day, a brave young Irishman named Saul Sullivan and his younger brother, Aaron, march fearlessly up the mountain. After Aaron is bitten by a snake on the mountain, and Vine saves him, an immediate connection between herself and Saul is forged. Soon after, they are married, and she moves down the mountain, away from her family and into a world she doesn't know, taking with her only a yearling redbud tree to remind her of home.

Saul's mother, Esme, welcomes Vine unquestioningly--as do her surrounding neighbors, including Serena, a midwife who becomes a fast friend. But Vine struggles with missing her family; even the daughter she births, Birdie, cannot fill the void left by her family's absence. When the lumber company Saul works for sends him to another county to chop down trees to help with the war effort, Vine's loneliness deepens.

Adding to Vine's unease is Aaron's growing obsession with her, a fixation so overpowering that it leads him to marry a woman named Aidia whose resemblance to Vine is eerie. Aaron's brooding desperation for Vine culminates in one frightful night that unequivocally changes Vine's life forever and leads to the theme that is central to House's novel: forgiveness.
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