Lee Smith, Adriana Trigiani, and Sharyn McCrumb
Whether you’re looking for a master class in storytelling and dialogue, or just a whopping good read, you can’t go wrong with picking up a book by one of these three fabulous Southern writers.
Every few years I have what I call a “Lee Smith Re-read-athon” during which I reread all of Lee’s novels. If you’ve never read any of her books, you should. She’s one of my all-time favorite writers.
Lee was born in Grundy, Virginia and she wrote her first novel, The Last Day the Dog Bushes Bloomed while a student at Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia. I read it when I was in high school and fell in love with her writing style.
She’s written a lot of books and short stories over the years and taught writing at North Carolina State U for several years. My favorite of her books are Oral History, Fair and Tender Ladies, and The Devil’s Dream.
A few years ago The Lime Kiln Theater in Lexington, Virginia worked with Lee to develop a musical around Oral History and it was wonderful.
Every time I read her books and stories, I learn so much about writing; her books are complex, rich, and wonderfully written.
Her memoir Dimestore: A Writer’s Life came out in 2016. The paperback version of it just came out in March.
Adriana Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap books are beautifully constructed and a delight to read. The first one was recently made into a movie starring Ashley Judd. (I’ve not yet seen it.)
When I read the first one, I had an epiphany — when a writer cares about and loves his or her characters, the reader can’t help but notice. In Trigiani’s books, even the characters who aren’t that nice still have some quality that makes you care about them.
She has written a number of other books, most set in New York, that I enjoy reading and rereading as well. Her newest, Kiss Carlo, is being released June 20, 2017. I can’t wait to read it!
Finally, there’s Sharyn McCrumb. Sharyn’s ballad books are steeped in Appalachian atmosphere and culture. They ring true, even when a hint of the supernatural creeps in.
Like the other two, Sharyn is a master wordsmith and her characters and stories stay with you long after you close the cover.
I’m not as fond of her lighter mystery novels and don’t really care for her NASCAR books, but the ballad books are simply amazing. The latest, The Unquiet Grave, will be released in September, 2017. It, too, is one I’m greatly anticipating.
If you’re looking for inspiration, or simply a great book to dig into, you wouldn’t go wrong with picking up one from any of these three fantastic writers.