Book Review: Appalachian Song by Michelle Shocklee

Posted October 9, 2023 by meezcarrie in Book Review, Christian, historical, Michelle Shocklee, multi-timeline / 4 Comments


Appalachian Song book review

Appalachian Song by Michelle ShockleeAPPALACHIAN SONG by Michelle Shocklee
GENRE: Historical Fiction (Christian)

PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: October 3, 2023
PAGES: 339

Forever within the memories of my heart.

Always remember, you are perfectly loved.

Bertie Jenkins has spent forty years serving as a midwife for her community in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Out of all the mothers she’s tended, none affects her more than the young teenager who shows up on her doorstep, injured, afraid, and expecting, one warm June day in 1943. As Bertie and her four sisters tenderly nurture Songbird back to health, the bond between the childless midwife and the motherless teen grows strong. But soon Songbird is forced to make a heartbreaking decision that will tear this little family apart.

Thirty years later, the day after his father’s funeral, Walker Wylie is stunned to learn he was adopted as an infant. The famous country singer enlists the help of adoption advocate Reese Chandler in the hopes of learning why he was abandoned by his birth parents. With the only clue he has in hand, Walker and Reese head deep into the Appalachian Mountains to track down Bertie Jenkins, the midwife who holds the secrets to Walker’s past.

 

Livin’ life ain’t about seein’ and doin’. It’s about lovin’ and takin’ care of those who’ve been put in your path.

Appalachian Song by Michelle Shocklee grabbed my attention from the title, had me eager to read it since I knew it was set in the Smoky Mountains, and drew me in completely the moment I met midwife Bertie Jenkins and her sisters in 1943. Also cementing my interest in the book? The fact that I share a birthday with Songbird’s little boy – seeing the date on the note that starts the 1973 part of the timeline made me deeply invested in the outcome.

The Smoky Mountains have long held a special place in my heart, and Shocklee beautifully captures the essence of the people who call it home, the lilt of their speech, and the poetry of their labor. Bertie Jenkins & her four spinster sisters are now part of the fabric of the Smokies to me, even though they are ‘merely’ fictional characters painted to life with an author’s talented words. Rubie & Bertie were my personal faves, but even the sister who took me longest to warm up to had me crying sweet tears before all was said and done. Into this cabin of sisters comes Songbird, a fourteen-year-old girl who stumbles into their lives, running from her father who shot her when he learned she was pregnant by her first love – a soldier now fighting overseas. (Yeah, Songbird’s father is a real piece of work.) Shocklee draws these six women so endearingly that I just wanted to hug each and every one of them. The quiet wisdom from the sisters and the way that Songbird comes to life under their care is truly special. (I also loved the cameo from one of Shocklee’s previous novels!)

The 1973 timeline follows a young man who is left reeling by the unexpected news that he was adopted thirty years ago, his only clue is a note with a birth date and the name of midwife Bertie Jenkins in Sevier County, Tennessee. Walker Wylie enlists the help of another Eastern Tennessee midwife, Reese Chandler to find out as much as they can about his adoption and his birth parents. I found both of these characters to be compelling and layered, and I enjoyed being on the journey for answers with them. The author gives us a front row seat to that journey, and while we suspect the way things might play out there’s enough doubt that keeps us turning the pages and some surprises I wasn’t anticipating. There’s a dash of light romance in this timeline, too, which of course always makes my heart happy. (Just as an aside – it pains me to categorize this as a historical dual timeline novel when this latter timeline takes place just four years before I was born LOL)

Bottom Line: Appalachian Song by Michelle Shocklee is a tender story of love, loss, adoption, faith, family, and grace. The parallels between a physical adoption and our spiritual adoptions were beautifully rendered, touching my heart with the cadence of redemption and pointing me straight to Jesus in a gentle melody of layers. Songbird, Bertie, Walker, and Reese are memorable characters who will linger with me for quite some time, and I confess that I’ll be looking over my shoulder for them the next time I’m in their – and my – beloved Smoky Mountains. A perfect choice for fans of Sandra Robbins’ Smoky Mountain Dreams trilogy, Karen Barnett’s When Stone Wings Fly, Laurie Alice Eakes’ The Midwives series, or Cindy K. Sproles and Pepper Basham’s historical fiction!

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 4.5 stars / loved it!

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Michelle Shocklee

Michelle Shocklee is the author of several historical novels, including Count the Nights by Stars, a Christianity Today fiction book award winner, and Under the Tulip Tree, a Christy and Selah Awards finalist. Her work has been featured in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Connect with Michelle at her website.

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What about you? What makes you want to read Appalachian Song by Michelle Shocklee?

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4 responses to “Book Review: Appalachian Song by Michelle Shocklee

    • Regina

      This sounds like a beautiful story with characters that make you wish you knew them in real life. And being from Southeast Kentucky I love that it’s set in the Appalachian mountains.

  1. “Livin’ life ain’t about seein’ and doin’. It’s about lovin’ and takin’ care of those who’ve been put in your path.“ This snags me. Now I must push some of my TBR books further down the list and put this on the top. Historical fiction is always my first choice.

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