Survant, Joe. Rafting rise.
Survant describes the world of log rafting in Western Kentucky in the early 1900s. This is also the story of a group of imagined characters who lived there. One is Sallie, a madwoman and a healer whose dearest friend is her dog Ruth. In "Sallie Speaks of her Calling," she survives hunger and cold and sees visions that lead to her calling: "So I bring the healing weeds and words, / fluxroot. bitterroot, archangel, fingerwort,/and speak to them in tongues my/sickness taught me. I must speak ..."
Survant's words sing with the language of these people. He writes of tragedies, such as death by freezing, and of healing, as when Sallie brings a boy through a fever, both passages brutal and raw like the work they did to survive. He introduces other characters: Bill and Susan Rose, who love each other; Robin and Ben. Bill's raft mates; and Lou and Tilda, a couple divided on the care of Sallie, Tilda intolerant of her need for charity and Lou providing secret refuge for her in the barn. Survant loves this land and knows it well: the hills, the plants, the rivers. Sallie, watching cattle graze, sees cattails "... emphatic on the margins I of the pond have begun to dissolve/into flakes of airborne down." The story culminates in a raft trip down the "Rough Green." a tributary to the Ohio River, a trip fraught with freezing cold, the loss of a hand and a man's death.
This collection can be used in units on the history of the rural South, especially the logging industry in the early 20th century. It can also stand on its own as storytelling at its best, describing a people, their austere life broken momentarily by the sheer beauty of their surroundings. Sue E. Budin, YA Libn., Ann Arbor P.L., Ann Arbor, MI
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|Author:||Budin, Sue E.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2003|
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