“The Altar of Birds” – 2014 Pushcart Nomination
The Writer’s Block Myth – A Guide to Lasting Creative Freedom, coming in January
A timeless story of love and redemption set in the unforgiving times of 1952 Appalachia.
Redmond Johnson lets good-hearted Caney Gentry die in a collapsed coal mine, then returns to their mountain hollow home to find Caney’s widow Sarah. And marries her. A prophecy is born.
Ten-year-old Jamie never questions his place in the world. He’s figured how to stay clear of Redmond, wring moments from his distant mother, carve a refuge in the woods. The holler and his stepfather’s words in his head are his frame of reference for the world. He’s most proud of his stash of animal parts, and the bird catalogue he’s illustrating for his mother with pilfered paper and pencil nubs. He doesn’t know his mother watches from afar, or that his only escape from a stepfather bent on murder is fleeing the mountains, alone, as a wise woman foretold eight years earlier.
His mother Sarah remembers the wise woman’s prophecy well. Aggrieved, feeling hopeless under mountain code that defines fate unstoppable, she makes the only choice she believes can steel her son for a life without her. She sacrifices her happiness, withdraws from him. Her other heartache, Jamie’s dead father whom she still adores, haunts her. She doesn’t know she married the man who let her beloved die when the coal mine collapsed. Or that the prophecy she dreads is Jamie’s salvation, and her own.
Everything changes when Jamie befriends a mysterious stranger in the hollow and learns the breadth of the world. Secrets shatter. And Sarah faces her choices, breaks code to try to get her son back as the prophecy unfolds.
A coming-of-age love story tangled in a collision of culture, fate, and choice. Challenging our thoughts of right and wrong, and what a mother’s sacrifice can mean.
A lyrical and unforgettable tale of love, violence, survival and grace, rendered in language as lush and exquisite as the novel’s Appalachian Mountain setting.
Heloise Jones has a sure winner.
~ Valerie Ann Leff, author of Better Home and Husbands