Book Review: What the Mountains Remember by Joy Callaway

Posted April 1, 2024 by meezcarrie in Book Review, clean, historical, Joy Callaway / 4 Comments


What the Mountains Remember book review

What the Mountains Remember by Joy CallawayWHAT THE MOUNTAINS REMEMBER by Joy Callaway
GENRE: Historical Fiction (Clean)
PUBLISHER: Harper Muse
RELEASE DATE: April 2, 2024
PAGES: 366

At this wondrous resort, secrets can easily be hidden in plain sight when the eye is trained on beauty.

April 1913—Belle Newbold hasn’t seen mountains for seven years—since her father died in a mining accident and her mother married gasoline magnate, Shipley Newbold. But when her stepfather’s business acquaintance, Henry Ford, invites the family on one of his famous Vagabonds camping tours, she is forced to face the hills once again—primarily in order to reunite with her future fiancé, owner of the land the Vagabonds are using for their campsite, a man she’s only met once before. It is a veritable arranged marriage, but she prefers it that way. Belle isn’t interested in love. She only wants a simple life—a family of her own and the stability of a wealthy man’s pockets. That’s what Worth Delafield has promised to give her and it’s worth facing the mountains again, the reminder of the past, and her poverty, to secure her future.

But when the Vagabonds group is invited to tour the unfinished Grove Park Inn and Belle is unexpectedly thrust into a role researching and writing about the building of the inn—a construction the locals are calling The Eighth Wonder of the World—she quickly realizes that these mountains are no different from the ones she once called home. As Belle peels back the facade of Grove Park Inn, of Worth, of the society she’s come to claim as her own, and the truth of her heart, she begins to see that perhaps her part in Grove Park’s story isn’t a coincidence after all. Perhaps it is only by watching a wonder rise from ordinary hands and mountain stone that she can finally find the strength to piece together the long-destroyed path toward who she was meant to be.

International bestselling author Joy Callaway returns with a story of the ordinary people behind extraordinary beauty—and the question of who gets to tell their stories.


Everyone — every person in front of us and everyone on earth — is living a grand story no matter how small it seems, and our greatest hope, I think, is that at some point it catches another’s eye and becomes their favorite.

The seamless blend of history and fiction in What the Mountains Remember delighted me and made me not only want to visit the Grove Park Inn post haste but also to continue learning more about Asheville during that time period. I remember my heart being so impacted several years ago when I learned that there was a German internment camp in Asheville during World War 1, thanks to Pepper Basham’s The Thorn Healer, and reading about the tuberculosis outbreak and the building of the intricately crafted Grove Park Inn in Joy Callaway’s latest novel has piqued my interest the same way. The humanity that Callaway gives to her characters and the life she gives to the setting in What the Mountains Remember is equally compelling and seriously has me craving a long overdue trip to ‘my’ mountains.

Along those lines, I related to Belle quite a bit more than I imagined I would. Like me, Appalachia and its mountains are in her blood, and she feels more alive in their presence than anywhere else. I also know the impact of losing a parent in a coal mining accident, as it’s how my grandfather (at the age of 19) lost his own father. So I immediately felt a kinship to Belle, and though that’s where our similarities ended I stayed invested in her story until the very end. She’s a wonderful heroine with a layered history and winsome personality. Not to be outdone, our hero Worth more than lives up to his name. Because he is a man of true character and integrity and compassion, and therefore worthy of being the man Belle should marry, to be sure. But also because the underlying theme of What the Mountains Remember is that all of us have inherent worth, no matter our station in life or our past or our family – or even if no one else bothers to acknowledge our contributions and talents – there are so small stories or valueless lives. Even the most odious character in this novel, Marie Austen Kipp, has value whether I could find any redeeming qualities in her or not lol.

Bottom Line: In What the Mountains Remember, Joy Callaway brings the mountains of North Carolina and Asheville’s compelling history to life with vivid characters and atmospheric prose. This is my first read by this author, and while it started out a little slow for me I soon came to really enjoy her writing voice and the story itself. I loved the mix of history and fiction, including getting to rub fictional elbows with the likes of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone, and I found the construction of the Grove Park Inn amid a tuberculosis outbreak in Asheville to be particularly fascinating. The romance between Worth and Belle had me swooning and grinning and just altogether delighted, and the tenderness that accompanied the growing sparks between them was so well-written. A great choice for fans of Pepper Basham, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Ann H. Gabhart.

Reviewer’s Note: Readers of this blog may want to be aware that there are some occasional uses of a mild curse word in this novel.

(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 stars / loved it!

KissingBook Level: 3+ / will forget to breathe on occasion

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Joy Callaway

Joy Callaway is the author of All the Pretty PlacesThe Grand DesignThe Fifth Avenue Artists Society, and Secret Sisters. She holds a BA in journalism and public relations from Marshall University and an MMC from the University of South Carolina. She resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, John, and her children, Alevia and John. Visit her online at joycallaway.com.


What about you? What makes you want to read What the Mountains Remember by Joy Callaway?

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4 responses to “Book Review: What the Mountains Remember by Joy Callaway

  1. Patty

    I live in upstate South Carolina, so this is not far at all from me. I’ve been to the Biltmore, but never to Grove Park Inn..

  2. Donna Irvin

    I want to read this book because
    1) I loved the review
    2) I love the time period of the book!
    3) I love the setting
    4) New to me author
    5) Just an intriguing plot

    Sounds so good!

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