by Silas House
From the first-edition hardback (Algonquin Books):
Clay Sizemore was just four years old when his mother died. Clays father was long gone by then. Surrounded by aunts and uncles, loyal friends and cousins, Clay loves his town of Free Creek. But what he doesnt havea mother, a father, sisters or brothersis what gnaws at him year after year. And what leads him to leave Free Creek and try to make a life of his own.
This is the story of how Clay, a coal miner in love with his hometown but unsure of his place within it, finds the family hes been seeking. And its the story of the people who become part of the life he shapes: from his religious Aunt Easter to Uncle Paul, the skilled quilter who teaches Clay that you can make a beautiful thing out of bits and pieces. At the heart of it all is Alma, the fiddler whose song and quiet spirit wend their way into Clays heart, saving him just as he approaches the brink of despair. Together, they help Clay to fashion a life from what treasured pieces are around him and to see the family that has been right beside him all along.
Authentic, honest, and moving, Clays Quilt is both the story of a young mans journey and of Appalachian people struggling to hold on to their heritage.
When hes not writing, Silas House works as a rural carrier for the United States Postal Service in Lily, Kentucky (population 800). Clays Quilt received a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council in 1997 and won first place in the 1998 Kentucky chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters fiction competition.
One of the best books I have ever read about contemporary life in the mountains of Southern Appalachia, a region I know well. Silas House is from there, he lives there now, and he gets it right.... I could see and feel Free Creek, and the mountain above it.... a young writer of immense gifts.
Clays Quilt surprises us and rewards us sentence by sentence with the deep poetry of kinship. The book is so real its painful to read in places, lit by a special knowledge and affection. Silas House is one of the truest and most exciting new voices in American fiction.
Here is life in the hills as we enter the twenty-first centurythe love of land, the fierce loyalty to family, the church, substance abuse, and violence ... Silas House writes from deep within the culture and presents his world without apology or gloss.
Murder, music, coal dust, clairvoyance: all are part of the pattern of Clay Sizemores life in Black Banks, Kentucky. And the thread is passion.... Clays Quilt is stitched to last.
George Ella Lyon