Robert Morgan is also a prizewinning poet, and the poetic imagery
in Gap Creek
is noted from the very first page. Simplicity,
you might say. Or: Lost in a pool of simple words and times.
Its hard to describe Gap Creek
, but Mr. Morgan succeeds
in bringing light and substance to the simple words that fill the
pages of this enlightening novel. The beauty of the story speaks
for itself; it does not need the glamour and glitz of a fancy package.
The message is in the imagery, in the heart and soul of the characters,
in the part of the author that sneaks inside.
Simply put: Julie, the
main protagonist, is a character who has made an uncomplicated life
for herself. She doesnt ask for much and shes a hard
worker who expresses herself through just that. Julie is only in
her teens as the novel opens, but it doesnt take the reader
long to see she has already learned to take some of lifes
hardships with a resiliency that is remarkable in someone so young.
Things have never
been easy for Julie. We see her as she carries her young dead brother
up a mountain and home to be buried. There is a calm, clear expression
on her face as she remarks to her father on the beauty of the night
and the dark sky. Soon after, she cares for her sick father as her
sisters and mother sleep soundly in the next room. Her strength
is endlessly put to the test, yet she bears no bitterness, no regret,
no anger for the role she must play.
Before Julie meets
Hank, her soon-to-be husband, she rarely indulges in thoughts of
love or romance. Her life has always been spent working her fingers
to the bone, picking up the slack of others, lost in a silent reverie
of hard work, responsibility, dedication. Its not long after
Julie is married that she realizes marriage isnt quite what
she thought it would be. Like everything else in her life, its
hard work. But just like everything else she accepts it. As a married
woman, there are times when she and her husband are unsure of their
next meal. The cold, cold winter nights, the fight just to be alive
in the early 1900s make the reader see the simple way Julie lives
and takes on responsibility. In the darkness of the night, she revels
in her love for her husband and the simple beauty of having his
skin on hers, reminding the reader that the smallest of things are
the most important.
novel, the reader is given detailed descriptions of the difficult
and often unpleasant chores that Julie performsfrom butchering
a hog to laying out a body alone. This book captures the value of
hard work and gives the reader a glimpse of what life was like in
Appalachia at the turn of the century.
Robert Morgan has
given us a character to learn from, wrapped in beautiful and articulate
prose. Julie has such a capacity for life, for pain, for love and
hard work that its hard not to find her quiet existence incredibly
and quiet endurance carry the reader through the novel. The bitterly
cold winter nights and the flood that nearly takes her life keep
the reader on the edge of every page. Julie works through every
emotion, every feeling with her hands, her muscled arms, and her
determination as she makes a new life.
in the hardship of a rough winter, the ending of the novel brings
a light to the end of the tunnel for both the reader and for Julie
and Hankthe young couple weve grown to love. The tough
winter is over, Julie is again with child, and they walk off into
the sunset with a little money in their pocket and a lot of hope
for a better future.
Robert Morgan has
written a novel that isnt flashy, a novel that isnt
driven by scandal, murder, rage, or romantic love. Yet his work
is compelling. He presents the story of a simple life. It is an
illuminating reminder of a time when things were much more simplea
fictional time when there werent as many questions in life,
roles were more defined, and every day was appreciated, no matter
what it brought. And, unlike reality, Gap Creek is a place to which
we can return again and again.