Witch of the Cumberlands

When I was a kid, this is the book that made me realize I wanted to write–and that I wanted, someday, to write a book as good as this one.                    

With the prophesied arrival of three children on Devil’s Mountain a gentle elderly woman, whom the villagers call a witch, unravels the old mystery of a local mine disaster.”

How could anyone resist such a jacket-blurb? And the totally cool illustrations that captured the stories-within-a-story world that author Mary Jo Stephens created–wow!

I think my oldest sister clued me in to the utter wonder of this book, and I used to check it out of our public library (the West Asheville branch on Haywood Road) several times a year. In fact, I got so worried that some other (careless/insensitive) child would check it out and lose it that I finally talked my mother into letting me keep it. (Yes, such was my mania for this book that I compelled my mother to fib to the library for me!)

We said it was lost, paid the library for it, and it’s had a place of honor on my bookshelf ever since.* I occasionally loan it to those who I think will sincerely enjoy it, but I watch the lender like a hawk until the book is safely home again with me.

I don’t know much about the author, and she apparently wrote only one other book (Zoe’s Zodiac), which I never read, for some reason. Hmm…maybe that’s an idea for my reading list?

*I still feel some major guilt about the library lie we told, but it was impossible to get books way back when, with no Amazon.com at your fingertips or Barnes & Noble on every corner. If a book got away from you in those days, you might never see it again…and I just wouldn’t risk it!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Writing Jobs says:

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  2. Mtnsmith says:

    Thanks for a post that brings back memories of not only a great read, but of days spent at the library… the Card Catalog, with each musty manilla card typed on a manual typewriter (yes, I’m old, and so were the library ladies of the West Asheville Branch – no fancy new Selectric for them), the dog-eared Library Card that was a first hint of being Grown Up (I remember the ladies quizzing me on whether I Would Take Good Care of the Books; a gulp, and an affirmation, was required before such card could be issued)…

    “Take aid of a spirit, take heed of the price.” Ooooh, I will, I will, Miss Birdie!

    1. ltbrwnhare says:

      Oh, those long-ago days when our little public library was the hot-spot of entertainment! It would seem impossibly dull to today’s WiFi generation, but it yielded its own treasures and shaped our lives just as surely as any frantically flickering Anti-Social Device (ASD) does today…

      And where would one ever have encountered the word “widdershins” without reading ‘Witch of the Cumberlands?’

  3. Mandy says:

    When I was in elementary school I checked out this book for two reasons:1- the author and I had the same name and 2- it’s set in the Appalachian mountains and my dad was raised in those mountains. I loved it from the get go! I bought a copy of it several years ago and I read it every year about this time of year.

    1. ltbrwnhare says:

      I’m so glad other people love this book like I do, and fall is the perfect time to read it! (Watch out for fires on Big Bear Mountain, though–wouldn’t want to get trapped up there on the Devil’s Crown!)

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