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The Shepherd of the Hills Kindle Edition
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|Length: 217 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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It is set in Missouri's Ozark Mountains when it was quiet and back woodsy, not as touristy as it is now. The Missouri Ozarks is loved as a vacation area.
The book contains many stories, the love of nature and of God giving this beautiful world to mankind. A man moves into this country beaten down by life. His wife and daughter are long dead, his son, an artist, has disappeared from his father's life. This man is a private person who wants to be left alone, he wants noone to know who he is or where he is.
There are two young people who promised each other they would marry when they are old enough. The man moves to the city to be educated, his uncle will make him wealhy. The young lady, a tomboy, falls in love with another young man. Will she be tempted to leave the hill country or will she follow her heart?
There is a strange boy, unworldly, beautiful, who does not seem to belong to earth. He loves nature, will not live inside, wanders around day and night, a haunted child who sees so much others do not see.
There are the Bald Knobbers, vigilantes who are to be feared. There may be ghosts or haunts wandering the country, seeing but not being seen but felt. And also some lost treasure.
This is such an uplifting book. It is a joy to read.
This is a book about several themes, and not ironically, Bell has described this land, of many contrasts, beauty, harshness, death, life, struggle, loss, gain, emptiness, richness etc. similarly, with the human lives of his characters. There are secrets, love lost and gained again, betrayals, greed, vengeance, hate and murder, fear and ignorance, and human lessons to be eventually learned, including deep in the valley, as a new life emerges, to bring hope to some-the Shepard of the Hills.
The author, Harold Bell Wright, was a pastor in real life, and actually visited this area and so knew it, and imaginatively so, to bring to life this
"masterpiece" as it is called, and indeed it is one. There are smaller, seemingly disconnected plots weaving throughout as Bell tells each character's words, intentions, (yet unknown thoughts) movements, as a "scene", as one follows the next, becoming darker, more secretive, developing into the deeper, bigger story, as deep as the valley, as high as the hills, as wide as the land, as each creates a darker image, of both land and people.
The title, The Shepard of The Hills is the "good" in this story, or what can become good.
There are Mollie and "old (Daddy) Matt, as good as good gets in the wiser side and years of life, and their boy, young Matt, as big and strong as his daddy.
There's Sammy Lane, a strong, "beautiful of body" young girl, just like her long gone mother, and loving daddy. Old Matt and Aunt Mollie have always loved her as their own, and gets taken in by them, when her parents are killed; she finds out the wrong way the mystery of both their deaths. Young Matt secretly loves her, but there is another she is promised to, just as strong (Ollie Stewart) a bully with drink, and soon there is a battle for one girl's heart, and an unusual twist toward the conclusion of the Strongest Man of The Hills.
There are other characters in this story, especially "The Painter", a critical part of this story, and just one, of a few secrets in this story. There is mention of God towards the end of the book, but it is not a book about anything religious. It is a simple thought about what people do to the beauty of the world and to each other. And that there is grace in absolution, forgiveness.
With its many similarities and contrasts, especially of harshness and emptiness, it is eventual hope that comes to the Shepard, and of his own contrast within, of an absolution, forgiveness of his own, as he then imparts this to the people of the area, and changes many hearts and lives, and so to his own, in a profound way.
The Ozarks of Southwest Missouri are stunningly beautiful and Harold Bell Wright saw this as an appropriate background. The story is semi-true with just enough actual events to make it somewhat plausible. His depiction of the Baldknobbers is inaccurate, but it makes for a very good story, and it's true enough for the sake of the novel.
All in all, The Shepherd of the Hills, is an excellent example of the romance era of literature. If you grew up in the Ozarks, as did I, you can't escape knowing the story--and the book is much better than the play they do in Branson. The book led me into deeper research on the Baldknobbers and life in the settlement of the Ozarks--and my own ancestry. In my opinion, it's a "must read".