Apr 14, 2010

Where the Lilies Bloom

by Vera and Bill Cleaver

This title has sounded familiar to me since childhood, and caught my eye at a library sale. I have a vague memory of my mother reading it to us sisters at one time, when we were past bedtime stories but still gathered to listen to novels in the evening. It turns out I recalled almost nothing of the story, so it was a whole new experience to read it again.

Where the Lilies Bloom is about a poor family of four children who live in the backwoods of a secluded Appalachian valley. Their mother having already died, and their father terminally ill, fourteen-year-old Mary Call takes on the responsibility to keep her siblings together. She makes a promise to her dying father never to accept charity, then stubbornly and proudly struggles to find ways to make ends meet when left without parents. Keeping their father's death a secret, the children avoid questioning neighbors, refuse help, try to finagle ownership of the house they live in and the land around it from the landlord, and finally take to "wildcrafting", gathering herbs and roots in the woods for a meager income. But when winter arrives with deep snow, the children find themselves woefully unprepared.

This was a pretty good book. The plight of the children and their determination to manage by themselves against all odds wrings your heart. The characters are pretty believable, and the ending took me by surprise. I didn't see evidence written into the story either that Devola was simple in the head, as her sister supposed, or that she was smarter than she appeared, as others came to believe. I guess that's because we see it all from Mary Call's viewpoint, and she was just accepting what her parents had told her, but I wish there'd been more about that for the reader to gather between the lines.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 213 pages, 1969

8 comments:

bermudaonion said...

When I first saw the title, I thought of an old movie with Sidney Poitier, but it definitely didn't come from that book. It sounds like a good book.

Janet said...

I remember this title too from my youth, but like you I've forgotten most of the plot. Thanks for the review.

TheBlackSheep said...

Another blast from the past. Thanks!

Jeane said...

Bermudaonion- there is an old film with the same title but an entirely different story, or so I've heard (never saw it myself)

Janet, Blacksheep- Nice to remember, isn't it?

Bybee said...

Vera and Bill Cleaver used to be quite popular in the early 70s, then they just kind of disappeared. I really like Where The Lillies Bloom. It was made into a really good TV movie around the same time.

Jeane said...

Bybee- there was quite an extensive list of other titles written by them, in the front of my book. I'd never heard of any of them, but I got the impression they were quite prolific writers!

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I remember reading this when I was younger. Didn't they use onions when someone got sick?

I also remember liking the film.

Jeane said...

Holly- yes! There's a scene where they boil onions and put a sick man in a bath piled with hot steamy onions. He did recover.