March 9, 2009

Cold Rock River by J.L. Miles

This is the second novel I have read by J.L. Miles, the first being Roseflower Creek. That book did not disappoint, so I waited (im)patiently for this novel to be published and even pre-ordered it on Amazon.

This book takes place in rural Georgia at the beginning of the Vietnam War, and follows the story of Adie Jenkins, a pregnant 16-year old who marries her baby's father, Buck, and moves with him to be near his family in Hog Gap, only to discover that he would rather chase skirts than be home with her. After their daughter is born, he spends most nights with his boss' daughter, so she finds herself a lonely housewife.

Instead of wallowing in her pity, she becomes friends with a local midwife, Willa Mae, who helps her raise her daughter and gives her a gift...the diary of a young slave girl named Tempe. She also takes up chicken farming, in order to supplement Bucks meager income. When she isn't taking care of her daughter or raising the chickens, she retreats to the journal to ease the pains of loneliness she feels.

I really enjoyed this book. It has everything you could want out of a novel...a compelling story, believable characters, and the feeling that you have to read just one more page before you put it down. Miles did a wonderful job developing all the characters, from Adie to Buck to his mother Verna to the slaves talked about in Tempe's diary. And she does a great job weaving the story of Tempe into Adie's story, it feels natural.

I also love the sense of humor she gave Adie. There are so many one-liners she came up with. Here's one of my favorites, which takes place after Adie's mother comes to help her rein in her unfaithful husband.

'Adie, you did real fine,' Mama said. 'Now stick by your guns.'

'I best not do that, Mama,' I said. 'I might shoot him.'

I won't say much more because I don't want to give the story away before you even get a chance to read it. But if you love southern novels with strong characters, this book is for you.

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