I read "A Parchment of Leaves" next to the Eden House pool in Key West just after meeting Silas House at Key West Literary Seminar in January 2008. I finished "Coal Tattoo" and "Clay's Quilt" in front of our wood stove here in Homer, Alaska upon returning home.
Reading his novels is like listening to my family talk. They take me back to Sunday dinners and Pa and Grandma's house, we ate chicken & dumplings, corn on the cob, shucky beans, baking soda biscuits, red-eye gravy. Grandma gathered eggs in her apron, the sunflowers towered over my head, and she grew all her own vegetables in a huge garden. She and Pa milked the cows, she churned the butter, he slopped the hogs. We kids played in the barn, swinging off the hay loft using a thick rope that burned our hands.
Then the music started. Foot-stomping, fiddle playing, guitar strumming, a story about every song from my Grandma, one of my aunts on the piano, another with a guitar, my dad playing banjo...I could go on but I'll save it for my own writing. Silas House tells stories that remind me I was never really alone.
It was his writing that has inspired me to dig into my own Kentucky roots. My people on my father's side are from Grayson County and Daviess County in the bluegrass region of Kentucky. Exploring the map, I find the area where my Grandma and Pa were born; she in Elizabethtown, (raised in Leitchfield) and he in Annetta. I am dreaming of a trip to Kentucky to visit the parts my people come from and then take the same route north to Illinois they took after losing their farm during the Great Depression.
There is a place where I belong and that's in the rivers, the mountains and the music, the magic of my own people.