A collection of fictional stories, songs and personal reflections of the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey.
With its vast forests, famous pygmy pines and dry soil (known as sugar sand), the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey is the stuff of local legend. In particular, it’s famous as the home of the Jersey Devil, a monstrous creature born, according to legend, to Pine Barrens local Mrs. Leeds. There are other stories, too, and Pedersen chronicles them here in this wide-ranging collection. With a conversational style, he discusses local culture as well as the personal meaning the Pine Barrens holds for him, it being the site of many of his childhood and teenage adventures. Aside from local stories of ghosts, monsters and strange things happening to regular people, such as the phantom passengers that haunt a bus, some of the stories look at the bigger picture, attempting to explain natural phenomena, such as the ocean tides, or common phrases (e.g., “to coin a phrase” and “busy as Bea”) in use all over the country. After the long, informative introduction, however, the book could use more context; an annotation for each story would be useful, perhaps relating where the story came from and if it’s based on any particular local tales. In particular, it would be helpful to know more about the extent to which the tales are founded in myth. Nonetheless, this fun read is a fine work of folklore, showing tremendous dedication to the magical history of its New Jersey locale. The strong sense of place throughout the book will help acquaint new visitors, and those familiar with the area are sure to enjoy the trip back.
An entertaining collection in need of a bit more context.