- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Atria Books; First Edition edition (September 12, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1476772878
- ISBN-13: 978-1476772875
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 95 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Unquiet Grave: A Novel Hardcover – September 12, 2017
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“McCrumb hears voices from the grave and kindly passes their messages along.” (New York Times Book Review)
"Unquiet indeed." (Kirkus)
"In this compelling story, McCrumb continues to relate the dynamic tales of Appalachia and its people." (Library Journal)
“McCrumb has a real knack for crafting full-bodied characters and using folklore to construct compelling plots.” (Booklist)
"Appalachia is an area steeped in dark history, mystery, and ghost stories as old as the hills. Sharyn McCrumb weaves her literary magic once more with the 1897 haunting tale of a young girl named Zona and the people who fought for her spirit’s justice. The Unquiet Grave, while based on historical fact and record, is woven with legend and carefully handcrafted as only McCrumb can accomplish. The Greenbrier Ghost has once again risen to claim its rightful place among America’s best ghost stories and the most rare—the ones that are actually true." (Sherri Brake, author of The Haunted History of the West Virginia Penitentiary)
“Sharyn McCrumb understands the South, and her understanding and storytelling ability are evident in every page of this well-crafted novel.” (Historical Novel Society)
“Based on one of the most incredible ghost stories in American folklore, The Unquiet Grave is a fascinating historical fiction novel you won't be able to put down.” (Bustle)
“McCrumb has a distinctive gift for creating fascinating, complex characters in her novels, as well as remarkable skill for illustrating the mountain folklore of Southern Appalachia.” (News Tribune)
“McCrumb has provided a masterful account of a mother’s fight for justice for her murdered daughter. Once again, she demonstrated why she’s looked on as one of the South’s finest writers.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail)
“Touching on mental illness, race and superstition, The Unquiet Grave is not only an informative read, but one that never loses sight of its story—a chilly retelling of an Appalachian legend finely resurrected under McCrumb’s pen.” (Mountain Times)
About the Author
Sharyn McCrumb is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Ballad novels. She has received numerous honors for her work, including the Mary Frances Hobson Prize for Southern Literature, the AWA Book of the Year, and Notable Books in both The New York Times and LA Times. She was also named a Virginia Woman of History for Achievement in Literature. She lives and writes in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, fewer than one hundred miles from where her family settled in 1790.
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Zona Heaster Shue was a young, beautiful farmers' daughter who married an equally handsome blacksmith, a man we would easily recognize today as a classic abuser (though at the time, in the late 19th century, the language to describe this behavior was not widely used or understood). Soon after her wedding, Zona's body was found, allegedly dead from a fall. However, suspicious circumstances in her husband's behavior and past (such as an abused ex-wife and another prior wife dead from a "fall") lead Mary Jane Heaster, Zona's mother, to believe that Trout Shue had killed his wife. Unable to think of another way to bring Shue to justice, Mary Jane recounted a story to the county prosecutor, John Alfred Preston, about her daughter's ghost returning to tell the tale of her murder; intrigued, Preston ordered an exhumation of Zona's body and found that, indeed, her neck had been wrung.
The novel alternates timelines between the late 19th century, mostly spoken in the voice of Zona's mother, Mary Jane, and the 1930s, which presents the story as remembered by a lawyer from Trout Shue's trial. The 19th century timeline vividly depicts West Virginia small-town/farm life in the era and brings the region fully to life while sketching realistic portraits of characters who might have populated the landscape of the times. This part, I loved (I've been on a rural-America binge for some months now, and McCrumb skilfully transports the reader to the region). The 1930s timeline also fascinated me, seeing as the location is a segregated asylum; one of Shue's lawyers, a black man, recounts his life and the trial to the resident psychiatrist.
Had The Unquiet Grave been pure fiction, I may have had some quibbles with the structure of the story, such as, for example, the integration of the 1930s timeline (why a psychiatrist would talk for hours on end about a patient's former vocation, without touching on his psyche/psychic condition, is a hard sell). Still, since McCrumb quite evidently spent years in archives and historical sites, speaking with experts, and even making a quite obscure (and original) connection to a similar case in England, imo she deserves a full rating for the precision of her research, as well as for the ways in which she brings the region to life.
“The Unquiet Grave” by Sharyn McCrumb is a fictional tale based on one of the strangest murder trials in American History which took place in 1897 – and had to do with a folklore legend of the Greenbrier Ghost. The book was extremely well researched.
The book flips back and forth between two time frames. The first is Greenbrier, West Virginia and 1897, where young Zona Heaster marries a man nicknamed “Trout”, whom she hardly knows and suffers dire consequences. Her mother Mary Jane is a strong willed woman who will stop at nothing to get justice for her daughter. The second is Lakin, West Virginia and 1930, where an attorney named James Gardner finds himself in an insane asylum under the care of a doctor nicknamed “Boozer” who wants to help him and he must tell his story to prove his sanity in order to get out. As it turns out, Gardner’s story converges with Ms. Zona’s as he helped defend the man on trial for the murder of his young bride decades earlier.
Both of those stories are unique, interesting and they hold your attention. Further, Mary Jane’s character stood out and really made the story.
However, the back stories of the all of the peripheral characters contained a lot of extraneous details that were superfluous and unnecessary to the story itself and unfortunately made the novel drag quite a bit and almost made me give up on it. That being said, the author’s note added a lot to the novel as it was clear how much work the author put into the book. Had it not been for Mary Jane’s character, I would have given the book 2 Stars but she warranted another ½ star. In addition, it was the author’s note that made me raise the rating on the book there after from 2.5 to 3 Stars. This book was completely outside of my genre and while it is not a book I would normally read, I am glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something new.
This was a Traveling Sister Group Read for me and it included: Brenda, Norma, Lindsay and Diane.
Published on Goodreads and Twitter on: 10.10.17.