Voices and Stories of an Old-Time Southern Camp Meeting
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Personal reflection cum historical study concerning the Fountain camp meeting in Georgia.

Attorney Wiley is to be commended for documenting the story of the Fountain camp meeting, a tradition nearly two centuries old that reaches back to the age of the great Methodist circuit rider Francis Asbury. This is no doubt a meaningful addition to local Georgia history. After a rather jarring introduction in which Wiley discusses his first failed marriage, he then presents brief chapters alternating between personal reflections and the camp’s history. The historical portions–most describe a legal fight over land and control in the late 19th century–are quite interesting and vividly reconstruct events. The inclusion of primary sources as an appendix adds value, as does the author’s analysis of the legal wrangling involved. The personal reflections are generally well-written and engaging, but the brevity of the chapters–most only two or three pages–make the book feel choppy. The reader is invited to experience Fountain’s sights, tastes, smells, etc., through the author’s own senses, but once he begins the story, he abruptly switches back to the 19th century. In fact, until the final two pages, Wiley offers little insight into the religious aspect of the camp meeting. Even the final chapter gives scant evidence that the worship services appeal to his faith. The reader is left with the conclusion that Fountain is largely stripped of its religious importance and is basically like any other camping experience, deriving its spiritual aspects mainly from communion with nature and “getting away from it all.”

A serviceable local history of a Southern tradition.

Pub Date: April 19th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-595-41180-1
Program: Kirkus Indie
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