By Cindy Held/The Studio editor
Freshmen got to “celebrate Appalachia” as they discussed their reading selection for New Student Days this summer. According to EKU News Center, the office of first year programs chose “Clay’s Quilt” by Silas House as the EKU Reads book for 2004.
The selection was made in correlation with “Celebrate Appalachia” on campus this month – a series of exhibits and lectures that celebrate Appalachian culture.
House, a well-known author, is also a professor of creative writing at Eastern.
Many of the events this week and next, will feature discussions of “Clay’s Quilt” and convocations at the Corbin and Richmond campus for House. The convocations take place 6 p.m. Tuesday in Corbin and 7 p.m. Wednesday in Brock Auditorium in Richmond.
The novel follows Clay, orphaned at 4 and raised by family when his mother was murdered, through his transition into adulthood and finding a place and love for himself in his small town in Kentucky.
Clay’s life early in the novel consists of honky-tonking with his best friend, Cake, and working in the coal mines, much to the chagrin of his devout Pentecostal but loving aunt, Easter.
His sense of God is walking through the mountains where he grew up, and he feels the freedom of his mother and his Cherokee blood running through him.
Growing up on Free Creek in Crow County, Clay has never known any other home. He is in search of information about his mother and trying to figure out what he will become in life.
He soon finds love he didn’t expect and a mutual passion for music with charming fiddle player, Alma. Alma finds a safety and freedom in Clay she never had with her husband.
Clay also makes some somber discoveries about his mother’s past as his life begins to piece together like a quilt.
“Clay’s Quilt” does an excellent job of setting the scene and mood of the mountains. The everyday life portrayed through the characters captures the essence of rural Kentucky.
Clay has strong family bonds to his aunt, Easter; uncle, Gabe; and his cousin, Dreama, that ring true to Appalachian heritage.
Between chapters and scenes the time shift can be sometimes confusing as to how much time has elapsed but it’s not too hard to follow.
The best part of the novel is how House’s imagery makes you feel as if you’re walking right through the novel and into Crow County.
Overall, “Clay’s Quilt” is a sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter story of a young man’s trials and triumphs, faith and love and how he deals with the loss of his mother.
I give “Clay’s Quilt” four and a half out of five palettes.
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