STARRED REVIEW
August 2015

A mysterious curse in a Blue Ridge holler

By Billy Coffey
The line between mainstream and Christian fiction gets thinner and thinner. That’s because the quality of writing by identifiably Christian authors gets better and better. There has always been a strong thread of Christian theology running through mainstream fiction, from Flannery O’Connor to Marilynne Robinson. The ironic key to this successful wedding of religion and high art has always been the subtlety of the moral of the story, which must be subordinate to the storyteller’s art. The same principle elevates the novels of Virginia author Billy Coffey (The Devil Walks in Mattingly).
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The line between mainstream and Christian fiction gets thinner and thinner. That’s because the quality of writing by identifiably Christian authors gets better and better. There has always been a strong thread of Christian theology running through mainstream fiction, from Flannery O’Connor to Marilynne Robinson. The ironic key to this successful wedding of religion and high art has always been the subtlety of the moral of the story, which must be subordinate to the storyteller’s art. The same principle elevates the novels of Virginia author Billy Coffey (The Devil Walks in Mattingly). 

In the first line of the book, Coffey’s hillbilly narrator invites his accidental guest (that would be us, the readers) to “come on out of that sun” and set a spell. The spell is immediate. We are altogether bewitched by the teller, by his lyrical telling and by the tale itself, whose darkness is infernal. How is it that Coffey convinces us that the tiny population of Crow Holler, Virginia—nestled in the remote depths of the Blue Ridge—possesses so much significance, not only as a microcosm of humans as a whole, but as a prime example of the essential flaws and virtues of human nature? The tides of events and emotions running through the book pull us right under as Coffey tells the story of a small town where young girls begin suffering from mysterious symptoms. 

The fate of the daughters of Crow Hollow—cursed by the witch Alvaretta one night, up at her bad place on the mountain—becomes our own fate. What happens to Sheriff Bucky, or to that preacher’s boy John David, or to the witch herself, becomes a moral obsession to us over the course of reading The Curse of Crow Hollow. Everything is at stake in this battle between good and evil—including the identity of the narrator, revealed at last. To Christians and non-Christians alike, this roaring tale will leave a powerful mark.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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The Curse of Crow Hollow

The Curse of Crow Hollow

By Billy Coffey
Thomas Nelson
ISBN 9780718026776

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