Top positive review
on August 12, 2017
The Editorial and Reader Reviews say just about everything I could think to say. This is an exquisitely written novel. One reviewer said "...Silas House's descriptions are pure poetry...." - and they are. I am a huge highlighter on my Kindle and there are far too many to include in this review. To quote descriptions/passages/phrases portray my love of a novel better than I could ever attempt to say in my own meager words. Hopefully some that I put forth below will be sufficient to whet a potential reader's appetite. I found this novel to be utterly captivating, educational, heart wrenching, ethereal - passages are visceral at time, I could actually hear and taste and feel the characters' words or the author's descriptions - this is one of those stories that will get into your soul and stay there for a very long time. Should someone happen to say "Did you ever read Parchment of Leaves?" I will smile, close my eyes, go right back to the beauty, and take a deep breath and sigh "Oh YES I did."
Some of my highlights (I just don't have room to include them ALL!):
"There is so much writ upon the parchment of leaves, so much of beauty blown upon the winds, I can but fold my hands and sink my knees in the leaf pages." (quote from James Still, "I Was Born Humble")
"It was such a quiet morning that it made you want to whisper so that you didn't break the stillness."
"The coffee was bitter-the way she liked it-but I choked it down gratefully. I was afraid I might forget the taste of her coffee once I moved to God's Creek. I swirled it round in my mouth so that it soaked into my teeth. I thought I might be able to pull back this taste someday and remember the way she looked so early in the morning."
"Mama stopped combing. She put both her hands atop my head, like she was feeling the shape of my skull, testing it the way she did melons when their bottoms had lost their yellow and they were ready for picking."
"I would have a husband who would be glad to see me waiting in the yard when he got back from working all day. That's all anybody can ask for, if you think about it-to have somebody love you and depend on you and take care of you when you're sick, and mourn over your casket when you die. Family's the only thing a person's got in this life."
"When I hugged her, she felt warm and soft, like something that has been baked for just the right length of time."
"....when the night was so black that it looked like you could cut a patch out of it with a kitchen knife."
"I watched the trees swaying. They moved as it they were underwater, so slow and graceful that you wouldn't even notice unless you stopped to watch. The leaves felt thick and seemed full of juice that might taste good if I broke one open. I touched them lightly, afraid I might harm them, and felt of them the way a blind person might read beads of braille."
"I wondered if the trees were God. They were like God in many respects: they stood silent, and most people only noticed them when the need arose. Maybe all the secrets to life were written on the surface of leaves, waiting to be translated. If I touched them long enough, I might be given some information that no one else had."
"It seemed like there was nothing in the world except the creek, sounding like boiling water, and the snaps the stems made when I plucked the berries from their roost. I fancied that I cold hear things others could not: the steam rising up out of the earth, the quiet thunder of sunrays that beat against my back."
"Saul said things in his letters that he would have never let escape his lips. This struck me as odd. It seemed to me that a man who don't announce what his heart wants to say would hesitate at putting it down in writing. Words become solid on the air when spoken, but quickly drift away. Ink lasts always."
"She smiled, and in doing so she showed blue gums and white teeth that were crooked but charming in their own right, the way they lapped over one another like sisters that longed to be close."
"I believe she had decided to convince herself that everything was going to be all right once the baby arrived. She was like a child who makes herself believe that snakes don't live in the creek so she will be able to swim there in peace."
"I felt like I was part of that mountain. I thought I might never be able to get up again, that roots would shoot up out of the ground and curl about my ankles and wrists."
"Terror does things to you. It hardens a part of you. I have heard people call others hard-hearted, but it's not your heart that turns to stone when something awful happens. It's your gut, where all real feelings come from. That was froze up inside me and I didn't long to thaw it."
"Daylight is the time God moves about the best. I've heard people say that they liked to watch the world come awake. But the world is always awake; sunlight just makes it seeable. In that moment when light hit the mountain, when the sun cracked through the sky big enough to make a noise if our ears could hear it, I would be aware again of all the things that had been going on throughout the night. Morning just made it easier to hear. Light takes away muteness."
"Sometimes I woke up from nightmares and was assured that time had not stopped when I heard the creek slipping over the old rocks. That sound was a part of me now. It was funny how I was always aware of it, too. Usually when things are constantly present, you don't even notice them, the way you will get used to the smell of your own home and not even catch that scent anymore. But I always heard the creek. It was like a song."
"Come spring, this patch of earth would be bushy and tall and I would be able to lie in my bed and hear the plants rubbing against one another in a midnight breeze. The scent of the soil was fragrant on the cold air. I hoped that by the time spring came, I would be able to keep my marriage, too. That I would be able to give it the same nurturing that I found easy to give to the corn and tomatoes. Raising a garden and keeping a marriage in shape are not that different, I realized."
"It had been so long since I had felt the sun on the back of my neck, but I nearly wished it into being. I felt that once spring came, I might be saved. All my brief and guilt would be taken from me and soaked up by the leaves."
"Guilt is the worst, smallest kind of jail. I was trapped inside myself from now on-as if my soul could not flutter past my rib cage."
"Then I noticed the new leaves on the redbud tree. The purple buds were being pushed away to make way for the leaves. I walked out to the tree and put my finger to a leaf, smooth like it was coated with was. I could feel its veins, wet and round. I had always found comfort in the leaves, in their silence. They were like a parchment that holds words of wisdom. Simply holding them in my hand gave me some of the peace a tree possesses. To be like that-to just be-that's the most noble thing of all."
"Her wake was a mix of every kind of emotion. One woman would bellow out crying, and another would laugh at a big tale someone was telling. It seemed like Esme's whole life was being played out by the people crowding into the house and spilling out onto the porch and yard. I thought that was a good legacy to leave-to stir up so many emotions in people."
"It was the worst feeling, to look upon the place of my childhood and realize that it had been swept away like sand at the swing of broomstraw."
"The overpowering scent of spring came to Saul on a breeze no stronger than a breath. It washed over him, a tangy, moist smell that was potent-even over the sourness of sawdust he could taste spring. The aroma had seeped into his mouth and coated his tongue. He closed his eyes and breathed it in, let it mesmerize him. It smelled like Vine. And it smelled like a memory, although he could not place it."
"He placed the smell of memory That scent of spring was from many days ago, when he had first met Vine. The air had been made of redbud and dogwood. The world had been brand-new, the color of an eggshell."
"She felt that she might be lulled to sleep by the steady rise and fall of his chest. She could drift off in this peace of being forgiven. Maybe, she thought, forgiveness made up for all the evil in the world."
"She opened her eyes to look over his shoulder. The road here was like a tunnel made of leaves. The trees were ancient and curled over in a green, moving arch. A little wind came up off the river and rippled past. The leaves turned their white sides to face her: God passing through."
And finally, I am often intrigued by where the novel's title comes from. There are hints of it throughout the novel, but not far into the book you will know exactly where the title comes from.