Rural North Carolina in the 1920s is modernizing at its own pace. Arie Mae loves her hometown and family, but dearly wants a friend to call her own. When Tom comes from the city to study the old ways of living, she’s sure she has found him, but nothing is ever that easy. Anybody Shining illuminates friendship, family, faith and all the things that can be left behind for the sake of progress.
Author Frances O'Roark Dowell (The Secret Language of Girls) tells the story through a series of letters from Arie Mae to a distant cousin. The joy of a barn dance and the scary fun of hunting for “haints” (ghosts)—and sometimes finding them—interweave with the community’s patronizing mistreatment by well-intended outsiders. For the locals’ part, they’re mystified as to why someone would want to learn weaving when you can finally buy ready-made cloth from the Sears catalog. Arie Mae tries to balance her view with respect for everyone involved: “Mostly we have got the stomping kind of dances here, and I wouldn’t mind to see a new step or two. But this ain’t something I would say to Daddy, as he’s partial to our ways.”
Anybody Shining has rich atmosphere, and the friendship between Arie Mae and Tom is sweet and inspiring. History teachers will love the references to the post-Civil War South, the eerie way Indians went from living nearby to becoming the stuff of legend, and the “songcatchers” who traveled out to find traditional roots music. (One refuses to listen to a contemporary fiddler for fear of being “inauthentic.”) Grab some molasses candy and dig in; Anybody Shining is a pleasure.
Heather Seggel reads too much and writes all about it in Northern California.