From The Historical Fiction Society's Teresa Devine...

Mami of the Mountain

By Joy Fowler


Joy Fowler’s enormous, sprawling epic Mami of the Mountain mostly takes place in the backwoods and poor but picturesque hollers of the 19th-century Blue Ridge Mountains. It focuses on young Merrilee McKay, who is looking back on her childhood from the end of her life and reflecting on the winning simplicity of a time before all the conveniences of the modern world.


Life on young Merrilee’s mountain follows patterns that have not changed in generations, and Fowler is unfailingly readable in evoking that lost world. This is a novel more of rumination and remembrance than plot; it’s full of characters telling stories of gentle humor, hard work, and simple pleasures. Births and sickness and rumors of the outside world (and occasional dubious emissaries from that world) form the landmarks of the narrative.


It is a testament to Fowler’s storytelling skill that 600 pages mostly full of such things never become tedious. Several of the characters, and especially Merrilee, feel like old friends by the time you reach the final page. A very endearing book.