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This Rock


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Muir Powell, a young dreamer whose plans always fall apart, decides to build a mountaintop church. His brother Moody, a mean drunk, falls into bootlegging and worse. Their mother, Ginny (from The Truest Pleasure), is the kind of simple Carolina backwoods Christian whom Morgan put through such misery in Gap Creek. The author sabotages his story with several static scenes: Muir, hoping to become a preacher, plans his inaugural sermon, delivers it, then critiques it, taking up about the first hour of the tape. This sermon is thematically important, and, eventually, a plot develops, but many listeners will be long gone by then. Tom Stechschulte reads Muir's parts, conveying his frustration well. Sally Darling as Ginny is maybe a touch too aware of the nobility of her suffering. Regional and fundamentalist audiences may enjoy this, but it remains otherwise an optional purchase.-John Hiett, Iowa City P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

This coming-of-age tale is rather like a Cain and Abel saga, set in the Carolinas in the early '20s. Ginny, a widow, raises her children on prayer and homily. Moody, her older son, is a lazy, cynical bad boy who grows into a whoring, alcoholic bootlegger. His brother, Muir, in contrast, is self-flagellating and guilt-ridden. He bumps his way down life's river, but his faith always seems to lead him to salvation. Morgan, author of last year's Gap Creek (an Oprah selection), fleshes out this family's story in a predictable but satisfying manner. While his tale develops with mounting drama, the production of this version does not do it justice. Alexander has the difficult job of reading the passive mother's dialogue; she often sounds like she's on tranquilizers. And Clotworthy tries hard for feeling, but gets bogged down in reading long, overly detailed descriptions with little connection to the narrative. Thus, the audio version disappoints, depriving listeners of the best of Morgan's sensitive work. Based on the Algonquin Books hardcover (Forecasts, Aug. 27). (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Adult/High School-Seventeen-year-old Muir tries hard to respond to his inner faith while avoiding the outward rancor and jealousy of his older brother, Moody. Set in Appalachia during Prohibition, this Cain-and-Abel-themed story comes to readers through the viewpoints of Muir and his mother. The mountain community is poor in all things but religion, and even that is parceled out with a certain meanness, with the boys' mother excluded from the local church in spite of her family's gift of land on which it was built. Muir, who believes that he is called to the ministry, is unable to see any of the elaborate projects he undertakes through to the end. Yet devotion to his mother, pride in the work he knows his hands can do, and the desire to be admirable in Moody's eyes inform his dream to build his own house of worship. When Moody's moonshine adventures ensnare him, Muir becomes overwhelmed by his moral life and tries to leave home. Several attempts to become independent of the familial or geographic landscapes of his youth prove doomed. Yet, he outlives Moody, officiating at his brother's funeral in his first independent clerical act. This historical novel will please both students and teachers looking for supplemental fiction when introducing 20th-century Southern gothics.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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