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August1999
Come and Go, Molly Snow
by Mary Ann Taylor-Hall
Bill: It’s summer time in Kentucky, and we have a good summer book for you to read this time on the bookclub@ket. It’s Come and Go, Molly Snow by Mary Ann Taylor-Hall. Hi, everybody! Welcome to the bookclub@KET and to our bookclub members this month, because some of our regular members are on vacation or are otherwise occupied. So hello to Lynda Thomas ...
Lynda: Hello, glad to be here.
Bill: Toni Bishop.
Toni: Hello.
Bill: Todd Piccirilli.
Todd: Hello.
Bill: And Dava is back with us and we are glad to have you here.
Dava: Good to be here.
Bill: A story of bluegrass music and the loss of a child and the young life of Carrie Marie Mullins - Dava tell us a little bit about this book.

Dava:
Well I will give you a still chronology of it. Carrie Marie Mullins lives in Lake Grace, Florida. That's where she grows up and the day after high school she travels north on I-75 because she is going to Lexington which she hears is the bluegrass capitol of the world. She gets to Lexington and realizes her dream has not been met but she still decides to stay in Lexington. She gets a job a working with computers and she starts perfecting her techniques with the fiddle which she loves to play. She lives a free life. She buys a house eventually and gets her life together and then she becomes a single parent. When her daughter is five the child dies in an accident and the rest of the book pretty much deals with her trying to come to terms with her daughter's death. Tt also deals with the man she loves who is Cap Dunlap. He's the guitarist in The Hawktown Road, a bluegrass band.
Bill: A bluegrass band. yeah
Dava: And it deals very much also with her band and decisions she has to make with that. I left a lot of holes in the story so anyone can fill them in.
Bill: Well there is a lot to talk about all the different characters. Lynda, I think it was described as her wildest of the wild days when she was younger.
Lynda: Uh huh.
Bill: She was having a good time in Lexington, Kentucky wasn't she.
Lynda: Yes she was. In fact her mother described her as a cheap tramp.
  [Everyone laughs]
Lynda: The life that she led -- she said she was living the life that her mother would have called a cheap trampy life. But yeah she lived the good life and she only began to settle down when she discovered she was pregnant and decided to have the baby.
Toni: Yeah but even though you know she when we say she led this life as a cheap tramp -- I mean she was living the party life and everything, but at the same time the emphasis in the book is how hard she works, she buys a house, she gets that loan from her grandfather and she works really hard. She's saving her pennies and she talks about how she puts it all out on the desk and likes to account for it and everything so we want to emphasize the fact that a very fundamental part of Carrie is that she is such a hard worker and she is so dedicated. She is very dedicated to her music and while she is having fun and going out a lot she's definitely got her...
Lynda: Absolutely.
Toni: ...priorities.
Lynda: Even in high school she knew that music was going to be her life.
Toni: Right. I would tend to agree with that.
Bill: And the way she did work so hard, shopping at Goodwill, she really was struggling there for a long time and struggled until her music started giving her some sort of income that she could work with. The bluegrass theme that runs throughout is an interesting one don't you think? I mean it there is such a depth of that, even if you are not a bluegrass music fan, it would have been a great accompaniment to this novel to have a tape of some of the music that they were playing and listening to. Todd what did you think about that part of it?
Todd: Well I'm not a bluegrass fan myself but throughout the novel I found just the way that May Ann Taylor-Hall wrote about the bluegrass music I really felt like I could understand what she was talking about and there was no part where I couldn't relate to what she was talking about just because I'm not a fan of the music.
Bill: She did a good job of capturing the band and it was fun the way Carrie was accepted into the band. How early do we know about Cap, when did he enter the picture?
Dava: Well he comes into the picture from
Toni: Early early on
Dava: The very start of her days in Lexington when she was working at a bar where she heard bluegrass.
Toni: Right.
Dava: Bands would come from time to time and she fell in love with him at first sight.
Toni: Right, And gets fired for it.
Dava: Right
Toni: Because she is watching him instead of waiting tables like she is supposed to be doing.

Dava:
Cap is in the story from the very first and its the story's about her love affair with Cap and also a love affair with bluegrass music - which Mary Ann Taylor-Hall describes very skillfully. Taylor-Hall describes how its not a music, but it is an unleashing of emotions, rather than a holding back...
Toni: Very strange.
Dava: ...of the flood. And you get to understand because of this nature of the music it's very hard for Carrie to come into her own as a fiddler in a bluegrass band and you see the struggle she has to undertake...
Lynda: True.

Dava:
...in order to be accepted for the excellent player she is. And it talks about when she first joined Hawktown Road they just reluctantly let her in the band because they needed a three week replacement for Andy who was their former fiddler.
Lynda: And she contrasts that hostility to the love that she felt when she played with an all women's band.
Toni: With Girls, Girls yeah.
Bill: Girls Girls
Lynda: Uh huh, they really worked hard to perfect their music since most of them were not professionals but they worked very hard and there was a bond that went way beyond just the music; it was child rearing together and...
Toni: Right.
Lynda: ...and sharing the joys of life together.
Toni: Right, and Hawktown Road had that but not with Carrie because...
Lynda: Right.
Toni: ...you have the dynamic that they have not had a female member of the group before.
Lynda: Right, right.
Bill: Let me read. One of the portions that I chose today to talk about is one of the first times that she joined the band -- to see if she was really going to be accepted by the Hawktown Road. "Because when it came time to play I was in their groove. They had to know it. It was inspirational. They knocked my socks off, even old Sleazeface did, once he let that Dobro do the talking. I thought, This is going to be good. And in the next couple of numbers, I did my very best to let them know they hadn't made a mistake on me. . . Nobody said much in between, but that's how bluegrass musicians are, mostly. They hide what they feel about the music. They are the silent type, a lot of them the most they'll say is 'Mighty fine.'" (Laughs)

And I thought it was interesting too I think that's the first time that we really see Carrie stepping up and sort of staking out her territory and asserting herself in a way that you know -- if you didn't know before -- that she's really a strong character.


Dava:
Uh huh and I really knew from the beginning how strong she was because she shaped her own life when she came to Lexington. It would have taken so much courage to be 18 years old and to say oh this isn't what I expected but I'm going to make the most of it anyway. And so when you see how strong a person she is. You are really floored by the grief she feels when her daughter dies because it its such a detriment to her.
Bill: Uh huh yeah
Dava: She doesn't know what to do.
Toni: Right.
Lynda: That's true.
Bill: Well we will get into that and talk about it but first before we do that let's talk a little bit about two of the other characters, Ruth and Ona, and how they enter the novel really early --which is a really interesting technique that Mary Ann Taylor-Hall uses. Somebody tell me about Ruth and Ona. Are they people that you know?
Todd: I thought Ruth was just one of the most likable characters.
  [Everyone laughs]
Todd: I mean she was just very likable -- the kind of person you wanted to have as a friend and to know.
Lynda: I liked Ona because she was so warm and motherly and knew all the right things to do with Carrie when she was in the depressed state. She knew when to get close and when to back away.
Toni: Yeah they really took care of her and if you think about it -- their grandson brings in this woman who's pretty far out there at the point...
  [Everyone laughs]
Toni: ...they first see her. She has destroyed the mirror. Is that what she did when they first brought her there?
Bill: I think so.
Todd: Right.
Toni: Yeah, and they are like, okay, we'll try it, we'll take care of her for a month or so. I liked the way they were able to see they are going to try to help her but we understand that it was realistic. They had a little bit of fear that she was going to be pretty far out there. But...
Bill: Well.
Lynda: They hid the good china.
Bill: Yeah they did that.
Lynda: Put the good china away.
Bill: And even in the very beginning of the book you got sort of the feeling that they were going to protect her because Carrie.
Dava: (inaudible) to use a knife or something.
Bill: Yeah, they were they were peeling peaches.
Toni: Yes
Bill: And they wanted to be sure that she didn't harm herself.
Toni: Yeah, yeah.
Bill: And then also we find out a lot about her friend Martha in Lexington and the way they sort of grew up together. Yeah, I thought she was like a best friend.
Toni: Yeah the neat thing about Martha was that she was so interested in French and going to France to work and everything and she said its amazing what you will think about. I think it was like working in tobacco in Rowan County, Kentucky (laughs) it was amazing what you will find to identify with I guess is what I'm saying.
Lynda: I don't think Carrie would have had her breakdown if Martha had been in town.
Toni: I got that feeling too.
Lynda: She left to go to France and...
Bill: Oh really.
Todd: ...that's what made the whole grief process for Carrie so sad.
Lynda: Yeah.
Todd: Is because Martha was such a good friend and she was gone then her daughter dies and she loses everything so quickly.
Bill: So the whole aspect of the novel could have really changed or the direction of the later half if Martha had stayed...
Lynda: Absolutely.
Bill: ...in the United States with her.

Dava:
But I almost think Carrie really needed the whole cleansing process of the grieving she went through. That might have been stifled if Martha was around. Because you really do need to work through every single step you don't need to get back at it too soon.
Bill: And sometimes alone.
Lynda: Well that reminds me of what Cap did when Cap came to get her after she had really slipped into her depression completely. Cap came and in his mind rescued her. But she wasn't to happy about it.
Dava: Something for further discussion there. (laughs) That was the right thing to do.
Bill: Was it a rescue? And why did he rescue her?
Dava: Ummm that's a good question.
Toni: Yeah.
Todd: I certainly think from his point of view he thought he was rescuing her. But you have to assume that she's writing this after the fact. After she has gone through all of this and she still doesn't see it as a rescue.
Lynda: Yes.
Todd: So its really a matter of perspective.
Toni: And this is kind of changing direction and I think that's a really important idea of was that the right thing to do, was it really rescue? But Cap himself, we don't hear. Cap only has one conversation where here gets to speak for himself. And that is very near the end of the book. When he finally gets to talk about this we see Cap entirely through Carrie's eyes and he is the magic man. That's what she calls him and that's how she characterizes him and you know there are a lot of issues there with her father. Obviously she sees him like that you know. He has trouble being faithful and all that kind of stuff. I don't know that I knew enough about Cap at that point to decide whether or not it was a rescue because like I said he is a character you only see through somebody else and he doesn't get to speak much for himself.
Lynda: If he hadn't come would she have slipped into madness that's the question. She was listening for that one main sound.
Toni: Right.
Lynda: Would she have slipped over the edge if he hadn't come?

Dava:
Well I think you could speculate about that all you want but it's really important that he did come I believe because that defines what she struggled with for the rest of the book. I want to read the part that I think defines her struggle. This is after Cap comes and rescues her, brings her back from the one main sound.

"I feel I failed her twice. I didn't look the one time when I should have been looking. I took my eyes off her and down the driveway she went her legs held out from the pedals coasting free and afterwards when I almost had her in my sight, when I felt her right there waiting for me, I chose to turn back. I missed my chance. Passed it up." All right she is talking about the death of her daughter. She is talking about Molly Snow. That is the person she's referring to.

This goes on with what you are saying. At one point we find out in the episode that she has been there for like 24 hours or very close to it so we are not talking about you know she was sitting there for a couple of hours contemplating and she's looking for this experience and she often says two or three times later in the book if I just could have stayed there. But you know she wants control in places where there is no control. If I hadn't been obsessing, if I hadn't stood at the clothesline and thought for three seconds about a man I have been in love with for twelve years then you know my daughter wouldn't have died. And everybody has those things - those control things - but Carrie is one who always wants to be in control. And I think that shows that.

Bill: Did he rescue her for the purposes of bringing her back to life so to speak or did he rescue her so she could join the band?
Lynda: She wonders that and she's not sure.
Bill: What do you think?
Bill: I do too.
Lynda: But typically to keep her heart from being hurt I think she questioned what his motives were.
Bill: So Cap rescues her. We are using that word
  [Everyone laughs]
Bill: Which I think is maybe used in the book I'm not sure, we are going to use it. Cap brings her to his grandmother. That's when she takes this sabbatical from everyday life and goes and lives with Ruth and Ona. Then she makes a trip back to the house to pick up a few things. Really at that time she comes to peace with a lot of the elements that are still very conflicting in her life. She goes back out to the farm and what happens. That night when the moon was bright and she takes the passage through...
Lynda: She goes back to the house where she had been before.
Bill: Why did she do that? She couldn't sleep obviously.
Lynda: Well she...
Bill: Remember she found her fiddle.
Lynda: Yeah, she found her fiddle.
Bill: She had lost the fiddle.
Lynda: Uh huh. I think she was intrigued by the old tale that she had heard that there was a ghost that lived out there. A young girl who lived as a ghost in that place because she couldn't pass over to the other side. And I think Carrie was stuck in that same sort of limbo, she needed to pass out of this. She is beginning to feel that need to pass to pass to the other side of that grief so I think That's why she went back to that that house. That lonely deserted house.
Bill: She makes this journey through the forest which I think is written so beautifully.
Bill: You could see her walking in the middle of the night going to this place. Dusty broken down cabin, dusts off some places there and finds a place to really play her fiddle. She was almost embarrassed to play the fiddle in front of Ona and Ruth or didn't want to wake them up or whatever. She starts to play the fiddle and Todd what happens?
Todd: well I don't know if you want to call it a mystical experience a hallucination, but she gets to the point where she sees not only Molly but herself as a child. And I think that's such an interesting point in the story just because I don't know if that is something where she is trying to deal with this issue in a particular way or if it's consciously or if this is her mind trying to help her out of this sort of funk that she is in.
Toni: And it really doesn't matter what you think. I mean it doesn't really matter if you look at it on the level of hallucination or you look at the level that this was a ghost that she saw she sees Lady Laura too. Is this the right name Lady Laura?
Toni: Something like that.
Bill: Yeah.
Toni: She sees that too but I mean I don't think it really matters.
Lynda: Little lady.
Bill: Little Lady
Toni: Little Lady that's it.
Bill: Yeah, yeah.
Toni: Well and I don't think it really matters what it is you know I mean it helps her it gives her the peace that she needs and it lets her say good-bye to Molly.
Lynda: Well when she.. not only when little lady comes Molly disappears.
Toni: Right.
Lynda: And she feels like she has to fiddle little lady back to her peace.
Lynda: To finally let her go. To release her. And somehow that releases her too. After that she is able to that or she in her mind she thinks she fiddles little lady over.
Bill: Do you think that's a relief to the reader at that point.
Bill: I mean is that is that a place where you yourself find some catharsis some sort of
Lynda: Well, you feel like its going to be all right. Everything is going to be okay after that.
Bill: But there still a big decision to make.
Lynda: Yes, about Cap.
Bill: And tell us about how we sort of lead up to that decision. She knows she's made one decision or there is some closing of that chapter with Molly because if you go through this you are certainly not ever going to be without it. But she deals with it. And maybe finds some peace as you said. But then she has this decision because Cap has asked her to come and go on the road with the band, the band is just about to make it big. An album or a CD or whatever it happens to be and so Cap asks her gives her a dead line on things and says I have to know whether or not you are going to join the band and really be a part of the Hawktown Road and so what happens there.

Dava:
I don't think she. Well she writes Cap a note and tells him that she will decide later whether she is coming back or not and whether he has a dead line or not she doesn't blame him if he gets another fiddler. I think she just doesn't want to be captive to anything not to her memories she wants to go about her life working on her own and she knows that if she goes back to Hawktown Road she would be under their schedule and in the same old groove she has been before, but she's not the same person. I think maybe she understands that she needs to quit thinking about her grief because her mind's done all it can -- eventually you reach a point where you just have to go to work.
Toni: Right.
Dava: Literally.
Toni: Right. But she has another job I mean.
Dava: Because she works at the university.
Lynda: She has so much work to do with herself. So much that she has to come to terms with, is beginning, to make that effort to start it. She has so much work to do that she really can't take on the band again and all that emotional energy that goes into working with that band.
Toni: Right.
Todd: Do you think that there is actual resolution to this novel. I mean because like you said she has so much work to do.
Toni: No.
Todd: and I felt pretty content with the way the book ended but I don't think that there was that kind of resolution that we are often used to in stories, or movies or whatever.
Toni: I had sensed early on that the book was going to end this way. I sensed that it was going to end on some kind of a note I mean I really did and for one thing and this is kind of getting into something we might want to save for later the whole is this a feminist novel or not I knew there was no way.
Bill: Go there.
Toni: I knew there was no way that she was going to make a decision that was going to involve her having a life with Cap. Very early on I sensed that that was not going to be within the parameters of this story. I just felt like I felt like the character thought that was a sell out and we were kind of set up to believe that it was a sell out. I feel kind of bad for Cap I guess in this story. I kept thinking that he was kind of getting a raw deal.
Bill: Really.
Toni: He had a band that was about to make it big and it was very clear that they were going to make it big if she was in it. They weren't going to -- part of it was that they wanted Carrie.
Bill: They had started asking for Carrie, the audience had started asking for Carrie.
Toni: And the guy with the record deal wanted Carrie too. He kept asking for that so they truly were on a schedule where they had to know and it was not heartless and insensitive of him to ask her about it. We kind of get that sense in the book that it's terrible that he's asking her this but it's not -- you have to know this.
Todd: I mean I agree that I think he does come off looking a little bit bad because he's looking at his career over other things but I think that Carrie did the exact same thing.
Toni: Yeah.
Todd: I mean she left her band that she formed and because she was looking at her career where it could really take off.
Bill: So the happily ever after story that you might think, that she went through all of this trauma and then joined the band and lived happily ever after that, that kind of thing just wasn't going to happen.
Toni: Yeah, I don't think it was set up to happen.
Lynda: Well it reminded me a little bit-- if the book had continued she would have gotten Cap but in a different way. Somehow things would have been changed and I have been reminded of Storming Heavenwhere the other the Carrie in that book eventually got her guy but he was in a much diminished state -- he had been shot or I don't remember what had happened--but he had been shot and he came home to with her to die and I thought in this story this it ended a little to soon maybe if it had had continued she and Cap would have gotten together but in a different kind of way.
Toni: Well that's no problem with them getting to together. (laughs) I think they are pretty normal I mean in a way I mean you know and of course we haven't said exactly what happens in the whole rescue scene but you know there that they are in love (laughs) I don't think there is any particular reason why they didn't get together.
Lynda: She, she's so smart that she knows that she may never have him.
Toni: Well again, She talks about him as the magic man but you know
Lynda: Yeah.
Toni: You get the sense that maybe Cap has grown up a little bit. You know and maybe that you know the fact that there are...
Bill: What my thinking is.
Toni: ...women throwing themselves after the whole implication is that he never had to try very hard because
Lynda: Yeah, exactly.
Toni: ...there are always people that replace her but he has had a long relationship with her at this point and which they have sort of been nurturing along maybe not (inaudible) the whole thing and.
Dava: I think everybody has their issues in this book.
Lynda: Yeah.
Toni: Yeah.

Dava:
And like you said Cap he had he had every right to want his band to continue on. Every right to want to have a life with Carrie but Carrie had her own deal going on and just a major thing to learn from this book its like nobody's at fault in any case.
Toni: Right.
Bill: Yeah.
Dava: It was whatever happens happens.
Bill: Even though she asks herself was it my fault was it Carrie's fault that that Molly died. Was it Cap's fault I mean that that that's something to ponder you know was it.
Lynda: Well she feels its her fault because she was daydreaming about Cap when the accident occurred.
Bill: Then is its Cap's fault or Molly or or Carrie's fault.
Lynda: It couldn't be Cap's fault but she because I mean she is doing the daydreaming. But its awful how she blames herself that guilt is what sends her.
Bill: Let's talk about this question this feminist question is it a woman's book as somebody raised the question. Todd what do you think?
Todd: I have to tell you that until we were talking about this before when I had just gotten through reading the book I never really thought about it in terms of gender too much . I mean it was obvious that it was in there but I never thought about it to much. It's not like I really related to Carrie's character a great deal but at the same time perhaps because it was written in the first person Carrie was the character I was worried about the most not anybody else so. but talking about it afterwards I think that when you look at the character development in here and Cap and we have said that there this wasn't even that much but Cap is the only male character in the book that gets any kind of character development at all and even then none of the male characters really come off looking that great in the book.
Todd: So that's.
Dava: Her father is kind of a good example of.
Bill: Well another opinion from you a woman's book from this book.
Lynda: A feminist book I think for sure because Carrie talks about how she decides she is going to get the audience to want her. The band is not giving her due so she decides she figures out a way to get the audience to call for her. Yes I think its a feminist book.
Bill: And the other women are powerful too. Powerful may not be the right word.
Lynda: Ruth.
Bill: They are strong characters.
Toni: Right.
Lynda: They know their mind. They know what they want.
Toni: But I think and I think that's why its a feminist book or that has strong feminine characters but I don't think its a woman's book in the sense that you I think what Todd said is real important. It has a universality to it you know I have never been a mother I mean I am actually the same age as this character and I could relate to that living in Lexington you know but I've never had a child and don't know anything about
Bill: You play the fiddle.
Toni: Don't know anything about bluegrass music and I'm certainly not a musician myself but I identified very strongly with her even in those parts of her life and I think that speaks to the fact that it was a well written book and that we could identify with her and I don't think you have to be a woman to do that. I mean so I don't think that you.
Bill: Its just you are not overwhelmed with this deep sense of.
Lynda: True.
Toni: No.
Todd: I think its something we are all curious about. We are all curious how we are going to deal with death. And I think that is interesting that we learned so early in the novel that Molly dies. And so the rest of the novel is pretty much set up as sort of a psychological study of how do we deal with this and we are all curious about that it goes well beyond genders.
Bill: Isn't it interesting the way Mary Ann Taylor-Hall.....


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