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Contact me at Mom25dogs@gmail.com

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Rosewood Casket by Sharyn McCrumb

The Rosewood Casket by Sharyn McCrumb

I read this book this week and really enjoyed it. It's about a Southern family in Tennessee. Randall Stargill is old, has lost his wife and one of his 5 sons, his farm is beyond his abilities and he is ready to die. He gives up. But, before he dies, his neighbors, Dovey Stallard and her father, find him and get him to the hospital and call his remaining 4 sons home. He left handwritten instructions that he wanted his sons to use the rosewood planks in the barn and his wood hand tools to build his casket.

Robert Lee Stargill and his wife, Lilah, leave their home in Cincinnati and his job as a car salesman to come home. They've been married 30 years and Lilah is a real practical wife except that she sees her guardian angel, Rudy.

Garrett Stargill and his wife, Debba, come from Kentucky. Garrett is in the military. He and his wife have some problems. It seems Debba is scared of everything and very clingy and dependent. It's hard to like her until the end.

Charles Martin Stargill is a famous country music singer and his live in girlfriend is Kelly and she comes with her little girl, Kayla. Charles Martin, Kelly and Kayla come from Nashville, TN.

Clayt Stargill is the youngest son and still lives in the area. He's not married and has a hard time making a living because his only interest is history, especially Daniel Boone, and nature/wildlife. He's a virtual encyclopedia about this kind of stuff and he re-enacts Daniel Boone for schoolchildren. But this doesn't make him much money.

The Stargill farm has been in the family for 200 years (same for the Stallards) but it's hard to keep the family land these days. Farming is hard in the mountains and with the limited farmable land and help these days so the land is being developed for mountain cabins, retirement homes and mansions of the wealthy. For people who have a deep affinity for the land or their family history, it is devastating to lose their family land, their family identity.

Once the brothers get together at the farm, they begin to work on the casket. The women go through the trunks in the attic and pick out clothes to use to make a coffin lining. They quilt it with pieces from the boy's mother's wedding dress, items from the boy's childhood, etc. As the family works on these things...family secrets and scandals begin to come out. Neighbors add to the secrets and drama when old Nora Bonesteel, a neighbor and clairvoyant, brings something to tuck into Randall's coffin: a small box containing a child's skeleton.

I was impressed with this book. It's a quick and easy read but there is nothing easy and quick about the art. Just as the men built the casket and the women sewed together a quilt from the past, so Sharyn McCrumb crafts a story using bits and pieces of a small farm family. She opens your eyes to the complications of small farms in America today. There are depths to this family that slowly come out and you actually understand them by the end of the book.

I encourage you to read this. And I'm going to check into her other books too.
http://www.sharynmccrumb.com/index.html

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