Today, I'm honored to be stop #5 on author Kimberly Brock's blog tour. If you'd like a list of all the blogs participating, click here.
Kimberly's debut novel, The River Witch, is a poignant tale teaming with southern and mystical elements, where people work through regrets and secrets to find home in an unpredictable world. Set against the backdrop of the Appalachian foothills and the Sea Islands, it's a mysterious brew of the past and present, the music of the river, and the dead and the dying who haunt the riverbank.
If the blurb, beautiful cover, and moving trailer aren't enough to persuade you that this is a must read, here's a little peek into the prologue, via Kimberly's website:
These were the first things I heard, the sounds of women and water on a cool November morning just south of the Cumberland River. My grandmother and two ladies from the Glenmary Baptist church sat in the living room and sang Wayfaring Stranger, Number 459 from the Sacred Harp as my mama labored. Later, the midwife, who was also a Keller cousin, told the story of how there’d been a storm that flooded the hollow, and the rising water threatened to come in the door all night. Stranded in that little house for three days, they swaddled me in a flour sack quilt, decided what to name me, and predicted all the days of my life. Granny Byrne always said they’d never ate as well, fellowshipped as sweetly, or sang with hearts that full of the Spirit.
I was a grown woman, lost and stranded by my choices, before I realized I’d forgotten that story. And then I heard my Granny Byrne. Day and night, she began to sing to me again, an old song, a lesson of water and time.
There are two main characters and two points of view to tell this story. One is a twenty-four-year-old professional dancer named Roslyn Byrne. The other is a motherless ten-year-old little girl named Damascus Trezevant.
When I asked Kimberly to choose one, she decided upon Damascus, stating:
"She’s been described as having the flavor of a Flannery O’Connor character, but if that’s so, it was unintentional. I heard this girl start speaking as a fully realized child from the first of this novel and never thought of comparing her to any other literary voice. I believe she drives this novel from start to finish."
Little Damascus sounds like an amazing character, doesn't she? Let's find out what makes her tick.
1. Where's is Damascus from?
Damascus is a native of Manny’s Island, a fictional Sea Island community off the coast of the state of Georgia. She’s the youngest member of a family who has lived on the island for generations and owns the oldest farm still in existence there. Before her family, the house belonged to a conjure woman and this heritage gives Damascus’s family a certain reputation, and instills in Damascus a great deal of superstition. No one lives in the house now and her father rents it for the summer, which is where the story begins because this is her worst fear.
2. Does Damascus have any regrets?
Damascas’s mother dies from cancer several years prior to the beginning of the book. As smart and wily as Damscus is, she is like all children when it comes to the loss of a parent and she is obsessed with understanding this death and feels she needs to somehow atone for failing to stop it. Damascus is a character who is filled with tragic regrets at a very young age, the heaviest of these being that she couldn’t make her mother well. In her child’s heart, she feels she was not enough to motivate her mother to survive.
3. What does she see in her future?
Damascus is a tenacious child and she has a quest to grow a collection of pumpkin seeds her mother left for her. She believes with great urgency that if she brings the vines to full fruit, she will discover a great secret her mother meant to share, and that it will bring healing to her family and help her distant and tormented father to find peace. She sees the harvest as a way to prove that life can still come from the farm and from herself, and she longs to reconnect with her father, the Trezevant family, and the farm, itself. But she fears that the arrival of a stranger, a woman named Roslyn Byrne who comes to rent the farmhouse for the summer, may ruin her plans. She has heard cruel rumors that Roslyn is a witch whose grief is calling alligators to the island. Damascus’ believes, like her Seminole grandmother before her, that alligators speak for the dead. She both fears Roslyn and is intrigued by her.
4. What makes life worthwhile for her?
The work growing the pumpkins gives her purpose, but Damascus finds real meaning in the unexpected friendship with Roslyn, whose grief is raw and who does not try to hide it or protect Damascus from its ugliness. Damascus learns about respect from Roslyn. She also begins to understand the power of thinking outside herself and giving back when she helps Roslyn with weekly visits to shut-ins at an assisted living home called Sunrise Hills.
5. What does she see as worth dying for?
The quest to make sense of her mother’s death, to find solace for her grief, and to somehow heal her relationship with her father, is all wrapped up in the pumpkin vine. Damascus would die to protect the vine, even going so far as to sleep on the riverbank at night where alligators are frequently seen.
6. What are Damascus's strengths?
For a ten-year-old, Damascus is remarkably wise. I wrote her this way very intentionally, based on students I knew while working as a severe special needs teacher, kids who had behavioral disorders and had suffered neglect. Damascus is observant. She chews on her words a long time. She plots and schemes and assesses the adult world around her before she makes any moves. She is not skittish. On the contrary, Damascus takes every step with intention. She is pure and straightforward, with a glaring honesty that often blinds the other characters like a mirror held up to a bright light. I admire the steel in this child’s soul.
7. Does she have the capacity for love?
At the beginning of the novel, Damascus is withdrawn and uncooperative. Through her friendship with Roslyn, the work she does at Sunrise Hills, and time spent with her older cousin, JB, Damascus faces triumph and tragedy over the course of the summer. In the end, she is transformed, learning to trust the others in her life who are reaching out to her and to accept that she is lovable, with gifts to offer the world.
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I hope everyone will take the time to get to know Kimberly and her wonderful book. Her bio below provides links so you can stalk her around the web.
Have a great day, and a happy reading!
kimberlybrockbooks.com You can also like her on FB, follow her on twitter @kimberlydbrock, and find her at Good Reads, Amazon & BN! She’s now on Net Galley if you want to leave a review!