FAMILY OF EARTH by Wilma Dykeman
Kirkus Star


A Southern Mountain Childhood
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The first publication of a long-lost work by revered Appalachian writer Dykeman (1920-2006).

Written in the early 1940s, just after her graduation from Northwestern University, Dykeman’s observations on nature display her charming ability to remember small joys: sitting on a rock near the creek watching life floating by over the creek bed, a luna moth in flight, the sounds and feel of the country. Her intimacy with water is evident as her descriptions transport readers into the moment: rain, puddles, mists, walking in damp earth, and even the smell of newness after a flood. Her stories of the first 14 years of her life evoke the innocence of childhood before we lose the sense of incredibility and uniqueness of things. Predating Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring by almost 20 years, Dykeman’s work bemoans the negative changes to nature: the housing booms and the losses of woodlands, habitats, and, mostly, solitude, something her father introduced to her as a singular freedom. A person who lives with nature is the only truly real person, compelled only by natural laws—laws so primal and universal that they also rule the lives of plants and animals. In addition to the author’s abiding affinity for nature, she has a beautiful, lyrical writing style. Throughout her life, she ached to satisfy her imagination not with facts but with the feel of things. Dykeman grew up near Asheville, North Carolina, and her father, 60 when she was born, was her light, her guide, and her muse. He and her mother, more than 35 years younger, took their only child for walks in their woods, to the creeks, hollows, and meadows, reveling in everything they saw—and it shows in this enjoyable series of reflections.

A captivating, poetic, difficult-to-categorize book that abundantly showcases the author’s talent for making words dance. Anyone who has lived in the countryside, or wished they had, will enjoy Dykeman’s celebration of nature.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4696-2914-8
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2016


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