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