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Great Storytellers

Recently my husband, daughter, and I made a trip to visit my dad and the home of my childhood. I noticed several changes in the town, but even more things that looked exactly the same as when I moved away more than 10 years ago. Memories always flood my thoughts when we make this trip. I feel as though I have stepped back in time, replaying in my mind scenes and events from my youth that are as vivid as the day they occurred. Such memories keep the art of storytelling alive.

Crystal Wilkinson has a special knack for storytelling. She is able, with her use of colorful dialects and descriptions of local culture, to place the reader in the middle of the characters’ lives. Water Street (Toby Press, $19.95) is a collection of memories from the fictitious residents of Water Street in Stanford, Kentucky. From chapter to chapter the storyteller changes, showing how the characters’ lives have intertwined in both good ways and bad over the years. As the characters recount the events that shaped their futures, the reader is compelled to examine beliefs on issues of race, morality, and integrity. An advisory on this book, however: while Wilkinson’s writing talents make this a noteworthy literary work, some readers might find the strong language offensive.

Loretta Lynn felt she still had something to say to her fans after her first book, Coal Miner’s Daughter. She kept recalling memories that had been left out of the book, so she wrote her second book, Still Woman Enough (Hyperion, $24.95). This book chronicles the past 25 years of the Queen of Country Music’s life, picking up where Coal Miner’s Daughter left off, adding details to previously told stories. She speaks frankly about her difficult marriage, hoping to help others in similar situations. To quote Lynn, “I’m proud that I’ve been able to entertain some folks in my lifetime. Now, I’d like to inspire them. I’d like to uplift them.”

Bryan Auxier’s children’s book, Where Have All the Dragons Gone? (Where? Press, $7.95), is dedicated to the memory of his father, who died of lung cancer. The story, accompanied by beautiful illustrations, is about several types of dragons who were afraid of being killed by knights. They decided to move to an island where very few people lived, and in celebration of their newfound safety began to breathe fire any time they wanted. The leader of the flameless Komodo dragon clan noticed that the smoke produced by breathing fire was causing the dragons to cough. He also noticed their colors were dimming, meaning they were dying. The other dragons, however, did not heed his warnings and continued to breathe fire, causing their deaths. This story is a poignant reminder of the dangers of smoking and of the tragedy of lung cancer.

Silas House of Lily, Kentucky, takes us back to the early 1900s in his second book, A Parchment of Leaves (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $23.95). The story is told through the memories of Vine, a Cherokee woman who married a white man. Vine is rumored to be a witch by the white folks in town since several men passing her home to clear Cherokee land have had mysterious accidents or have died while working. Saul Sullivan does not believe the rumors, however, and falls for Vine. After their marriage, Vine must learn to adapt to the white man’s world away from her heritage and family. She recalls her happy times and her struggles as she tells her captivating story.

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