The mountain is a lonely place. Welcome to Sourwood, a small Kentucky town inhabited by men and women unique and yet eerily familiar. Among its joyful and tragic citizens we meet the crafty, spirited Caleb and his curious younger brother; Pearl, a suspected witch, and her sheltered daughter, Thanie; superstitious Eli; and the doomed orphan Girty. In Sourwood, the mountain is both a keeper of secrets and an imposing, isolating presence, shaping the lives of all who live in its shadow.
Strong in both the voice and sensibilities of Appalachia, the stories in Miss America Kissed Caleb are at turns heartbreaking and hilarious. In the title story, young Caleb turns over his hard-earned dime to the war effort when he receives a coaxing kiss from Miss America, who sweeps into Sourwood by train, “pretty as a night moth.” Caleb and his brother share in the thrills and uncertainties of growing up, making an accidental visit to a brothel in “Fourth of July” and taming a “high society” pooch in “The Jimson Dog.” These stories invoke a place and a time that have long passed―a way of living nearly extinct―yet the beauty of the language and the truth revealed in the characters’ everyday lives continue to resonate with modern readers.
By Billy C. Clark