September 16, 2019
This sequel is set in the late 1920s Appalachia, where granny witches and spiritualism often show the path for wanderers to take, especially in matters of the heart.
Coral sat in contemplation under a mulberry tree. It was spring, and the fragrant female blossoms promised the mid-summer arrival of first white, then pink, then crimson, and finally deep purple berries. The white berries were hard and tart and enjoyed by the quail, wild turkeys, mocking birds, and blue jays. The blackish purple berries were soft and sweet – perfect for pies and jams.
When the berries turned white, Coral would thank the good Lord for providing food for the birds, and when the berries ripened she would thank the good Lord for the sweetness savored in her mouth and curse the birds for wanting more than their share.
Where Emerald Ashby’s story leaves us in the last pages of The Whispering of the Willows, pure and innocent sixteen-year-old Coral Ashby’s story begins. Like the changing mulberries, Appalachian siblings Coral and Ernest Ashby, navigate their lives and loves through the Spanish Flu epidemic, poverty, and various as sundry prejudices. Coral is determined to visit the family nemesis, Charlie, who now stews in prison.When Ernest’s previous love interest, Mercy, returns to the holler of Big Creek, she discovers that Ernest has a new romantic attraction. He is singing a melody for Charlotte, the older Ashby brother’s widow. No matter, Mercy has brought along her own spiritual tools to circumvent the inconvenience and a special friend who guides her way.
Accompanied by friends and foes, matters of the heart complicate life for Coral and Ernest. Relationships must be journeyed carefully.
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About the Author
More about Tonya Jewel Blessing: Growing up Tonya spent numerous vacations and holidays in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. Most of her adult life has been spent in full time ministry with a focus on helping women. She has traveled nationally and internationally as a conference speaker. For a number of years, Tonya and her husband operated a retreat facility in Colorado for pastors and missionaries. She and her husband currently live in South Africa. They are the founders and directors of Strong Cross Ministries, a non-profit organization that assists local churches, pastors, cross-cultural workers, and others in Christian leadership in providing spiritual reconciliation and humanitarian relief to the poorest in the world. Tonya writes monthly devotionals for women in ministry. She is the award-winning novelist of The Whispering of the Willows, which is Book 1 of the Big Creek Series. She is the co-author of Soothing Rain, a discussion starter handbook/devotional that provides women with important tools for sharing biblical truth.
More from Tonya
Greetings From Author Tonya Jewel Blessing
The Melody of the Mulberries is book two in the Big Creek Series. Both books are set during the late 1920s in the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia. The Appalachian Mountains were untamed in the 1920s and remain so in part today. The wonder of the hills is breathtaking, magnificent, and glorious.
The term “wild wonderful West Virginia” was used as early as 1969 before being adapted in the 1970s as the state slogan.
In 1937, my mother, Virginia Ashby, was born in the rural hills of West Virginia. She spent several of her formative years in an area known as Big Creek. I have borrowed my mother’s maiden name, several names from her past, and the name Big Creek.
The morning mist hanging in the lowlands, the dew on the ground, along with the green of spring and the deep red, sparkling gold, and brilliant oranges of fall draw me visually, emotionally, and on some level spiritually to its feral fascination. John Denver recorded in his tribute to West Virginia, “Take me home country roads to the place I belong…” Certainly, there are seasons in my life where I long for the steep, curvy country roads of my youth. This is one deeply satisfying reason for writing about hope with connections to West Virginia, a life held close to my heart.
It is a pleasure and an honor to share this story with the Celebrate Lit family. My southern story is an authentically derived historical romance for young adults and for women of all ages who love Appalachian lore and West Virginia history. It contains some depictions of spiritualism and traditional Christianity during the 1920s in West Virginia. It continues with the inter-racial dealings between two communities, where, some are friends and some are foes.
If anyone would enjoy a free sample of the first audiobook, The Whispering of the Willows, please go to the link and click “play sample”. This amazing voice actress, Courtney Patterson, will start reading you my story so that you will feel like you are eavesdropping on the Ashby family. Enjoy!
Enjoy an excerpt from Tonya’s first book in the series, The Whispering of the Willows, HERE.
As a child, one of my favorite books was Cynthia Rylant’s “When I Was Young in the Mountains.” Growing up in rural Ohio, near the border of West Virginia, my home is considered part of Appalachia. I’ve always been drawn to folk music and the backcountry. I remember watching the television adaptation of Catherine Marshall’s “Christy” when I was younger. There is just something fascinating about living off the grid, regardless of the time period: creating a unique community that is self-sustaining and learning what makes it flourish and what holds it together. Set in late 1920s in the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, Tonya Jewel Blessings’ “The Melody of the Mulberries” presents a wonderful glimpse into this experience.
“The mulberry tree that shaded her from the afternoon sun sang a melody of obedience. It grew, blossomed, and bore fruit in submission to God. All flora and fauna flourished in Big Creek through obedience to the Maker of All Things.”
Despite not having read the previous book, I decided to take a chance and read “The Melody of the Mulberries” anyway, and I am glad that I did. If possible, I would recommend reading “The Whispering of the Willows” first to set the foundation for this sequel, but it is not a prerequisite. I was a bit confused for the first chapter or so; my main problem was keeping the characters straight and remembering who was who, but then again I’m terrible with names, so that could have just been my personal issue. As the story progresses, the main events from the first book receive mention, which helps establish the plot of this second book.
My favorite element was the presentation of beliefs, the amalgamation of Christianity and folklore, and how Ernest in particular does his best to disenchant others from superstitions and lead them instead to Christ. As a teacher, “Ernest thought that education was one of the best ways to combat mountain mysticism.” His wisdom in both book knowledge and spiritual matters reveals his altruistic nature: “He had choices to make. He could choose to let others dictate his life, choose to direct his own life, or make the right choice and allow God to dominate his thoughts and actions.” Two of the other main characters include his sister Coral, 16, and his fellow teacher, Lottie. Although young, Coral is attuned to the voice of God and determined to follow where He leads her, even if it means leaving home to visit a convicted felon who harmed her family. I loved her conviction! Lottie doesn’t take center stage, but her actions prove her to be an encourager and supporter. Something that stood out to me throughout the narrative was how the characters use hymns and songs to talk to God and to minister to others. So often when I am praying or when I read a Scripture verse a Christian praise song or hymn comes to mind, and they can be such a beautiful part of worship!
“The Melody of the Mulberries” does not shy away from tough subjects. It deals with wedlock, race relations, and other issues that continue to be prevalent today, but it is a clean read. Each chapter begins with an epigraph that states an Appalachian folk belief and has an image of a black raspberry branch, with a leaf image used to divide the sections of each chapter. The author’s affinity for alliteration made me smile while reading. It took a few chapters for me to become accustomed to the Appalachian dialect, more so because I was reading it instead of listening to it, but I appreciated its inclusion in the characters’ dialogue because it enhanced the story’s authenticity. As such, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in mountain life, godly living, evangelizing, and tackling challenging topics.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through CelebrateLit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
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Locks, Hooks and Books, December 1
For the Love of Literature, December 2
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, December 3
Pause for Tales , December 4
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 5
Texas Book-aholic, December 6
janicesbookreviews, December 7
Betti Mace, December 8
A Reader’s Brain, December 9
Inklings and notions, December 10
To celebrate her tour, Tonya is giving away the grand prize package of a special pillow and reader’s choice of an eBook or Audiobook of The Whispering of the Willows!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.