Saturday, January 20, 2018
Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown
In Gods of Howl Mountain, award-winning author Taylor Brown explores a world of folk healers, whiskey-runners, and dark family secrets in the high country of 1950s North Carolina.
Bootlegger Rory Docherty has returned home to the fabled mountain of his childhood - a misty wilderness that holds its secrets close and keeps the outside world at gunpoint. Slowed by a wooden leg and haunted by memories of the Korean War, Rory runs bootleg whiskey for a powerful mountain clan in a retro-fitted '40 Ford coupe. Between deliveries to roadhouses, brothels, and private clients, he lives with his formidable grandmother, evades federal agents, and stokes the wrath of a rival runner.
In the mill town at the foot of the mountains - a hotbed of violence, moonshine, and the burgeoning sport of stock-car racing - Rory is bewitched by the mysterious daughter of a snake-handling preacher. His grandmother, Maybelline “Granny May” Docherty, opposes this match for her own reasons, believing that "some things are best left buried." A folk healer whose powers are rumored to rival those of a wood witch, she concocts potions and cures for the people of the mountains while harboring an explosive secret about Rory’s mother - the truth behind her long confinement in a mental hospital, during which time she has not spoken one word. When Rory's life is threatened, Granny must decide whether to reveal what she knows...or protect her only grandson from the past.
With gritty and atmospheric prose, Taylor Brown brings to life a perilous mountain and the family who rules it.
There is a large cast of characters here but the story is mainly focused on Korean war vet Rory who has come home to the mountain with part of his leg missing, and his Granny May who is a force to be reckoned with. There's not a lot of jobs in 1950s North Carolina, especially for someone like Rory, but moonshining is a booming business and there's money to be made delivering it provided you don't get caught. The mountain holds a lot of secrets, and so does Granny May but sooner or later things have a way of bubbling to the surface. This was a mesmerizing work of historical fiction.
4 out of 5 stars.
I received an advance copy for review