The Longest Mile is a labor of love, a compassionate and compelling visit with the ""holler folk"" of ""Duddie's Branch"" in the Appalachian hill country of Kentucky. Rena Gazaway, a professor and practitioner in public health who was herself hollow-weaned, moved in where strangers fear to tread, and, by approaching the people on their own terms, finally broke through their suspicion and reserve to become like ""one of the kin."" The lives she describes are shockingly crude, with little progress made for generations. Their culture is ""based on the dole and sittin' 'n' spittin',"" but the ""Branchers"" are affectingly human, and Gazaway illuminates their simple frame of reference that transforms the wretched little hollow into a loved and secure enclave in a Strange, hostile world. The hillbilly talk is rendered with such Verisimilitude that it becomes as difficult to read as to hear. Gazaway's attempt to rehabilitate a young teenager ends in discouragement, but as a would-be ""hollow planner"" she offers, proposals and questions, programs and dreams"" to bridge the ever widening gap between these rural communities and the twentieth century, the first step being a hollow services center to proVide everything from toilets and toothbrushes to beauty shop and pool hall. A very humane and powerful document.