[alert variation=”alert-info”]Publisher: Willow Oak Publishing
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Purchase: Amazon [/alert]

“…to tell you the truth, healin’ isn’t as much ‘bout the medicine as it’s about people learnin’ to trust in somethin’ besides themselves.”

The Ridge Walker isn’t the first book written by Jack Hemphill and like one of his other books, it is set in the Black Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. This fictional historical novel starts in the late 1940s when Mac Davis, a photographer and World War II veteran, is looking for an exclusive story to write for a local magazine. In his search, Mac is directed to Jess Shew. He is trying to get closer to Jess, but can’t find a right approach. While spying on Jess she shoots him without any warning after seeing him taking pictures of her. Coming to his senses in Jess’ house some time later he suddenly gets involved in an unpredictable lifelong story that this book is about. The amazing story that Mac has become an essential part of is certainly exclusive.

Being in her thirties, Jess considers herself as the last skilled Celtic medicine woman in this region. If you don’t know, for many centuries people like her have been seen as wizards and witches, and their healing practices as a witchcraft. Nothing changed in the twentieth century. Some locals and officials accuse Jess of practicing witchcraft. However, for many people who are living along the Ridge in secluded spots without access to proper roads and medicine, Jess is the only hope. It’s interesting to follow the sudden twists of this beautiful and touching story that slowly unfolds from different points of view. Certainly readers of the book are likely to admire Jess’ devotion to her profession and commitment to trusting and depending on her people as well.

Neither Jess’ medical practices nor her healing skills are the focus of the narrative, but love – simple love with its gains, losses, and compassion. That thing that people sacrifice many things for, but still gain more by the act of loving; the kind of love that makes impossible things possible. However, the book isn’t a romance, although the story is romantic enough. Moving from Mac’s account to Jess’ and back the author skillfully leads the readers through a simple but engaging plot. The story deals with very delicate issues, although the author’s approach to them is careful and gentle. The descriptions of severe mountain weather, the ordinary people living there, and the surroundings that attract spooky legends create an appropriate dramatic atmosphere. All of this prepares readers for the tragic accident. Although the book is defined as a historical fiction, it contains elements of memoir and fairy tales as life and death are mysteriously intertwined here. So, take a comfortable seat and read it all the way through to find out what kind of love keeps these people together. In the end, you may even decide that magic does exist.

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