The Melody of the Mulberries

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Book excerpt: This sequel to The Whispering of the Willows is set in the late 1920s’ Appalachia.

Appalachian life is filled with beauty and struggle. My mother, Virginia Ashby Carter, grew up in the hills of West Virginia in the small town of Big Creek. She washed the family clothes in a creek, learned to cook over a wood burning stove, and slept with three of her sisters in a tool shed. The siblings slept sideways on the bed covered with a feather tick.

My two novels: The Whispering of the Willows and The Melody of the Mulberries are set in Appalachia during the late 1920’s in the rural community of Big Creek. The series centers around the Ashby siblings.

In Book Two, The Melody of the Mulberries, sixteen-year-old Coral Ashby is determined to visit Charlie in prison. Charlie has committed atrocities against the Ashby clan, yet Coral feels called by God to minister to him. She is accompanied by a local pastor and friend on her travels to Charleston.

            “Charlie, we’re having a not-so-nice meeting today, and I’m thinkin’ we need to talk about pleasantries,” Coral began. “Do you know why I’m likin’ mulberries so much? I like pies and jams and the berries picked fresh, but someday I am wanting to touch silk, and, in other parts of the world, them silkworms do enjoy eating mulberry leaves.”

            “You is done crazy,” Charlie declared.

            “Sometimes I am,” she answered. “But among the women in the holler there’s a longin’ for finer things. Not to get rich and leave their husbands and littles but to know about and touch and see.”

            Charlie shifted in his chair. “I’ll be remembering that the next time I go courtin’.”

            “Tell me about counting, Charlie. I ain’t never been”

            “Well, if courtin’ is meeting gals in speakeasies and doing unspeakables, I have plenty to be telling.”

            “I ain’t never been in a speakeasy either.”

            She could see Charlie softening.

            “Coral, gals like you don’t belong is such places. They belong in church wearing white and marrying men who will treat ‘um right.”

            “Charlie, men like you don’t belong in such places neither. There’s a better way. You belong in a church wearing your finest, waiting for a pretty gal to say, ‘I do.’”

            “That ain’t gonna happen. You and me both knows it.”

            The Melody of the Mulberries is a story of redemption: experiencing help in the midst of trial, believing God has a better plan for those who struggle with condemnation, knowing racial tensions break the heart of God, and understanding that there is always hope in the midst of  spiritual darkness.

            “I love to tell the story of unseen things above. Of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love…” (traditional hymn)

Tonya Jewel Blessing is the co-founder/director of Strong Cross Ministries (SCM). She and her husband currently reside in South Africa, where they assist local leaders in helping their communities. She is also an author of two novels and the co-author of a devotional. Tonya is a national and international speaker. She is especially passionate about helping women grow in Christ. Follow her on Facebook.

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