MY VOCABULARY BOOK REVIEW

This blog offers a different type of book review­—one that’s combined with vocabulary building. Words used in an interesting way or unfamiliar words are chosen for this blog.

If You Walk Long Enough

By Nancy Hartney

Nancy Hartney has a unique southern voice that immediately draws you into the lives she’s created as if each is a family member you know well. Her characters make you feel their pain, their joy, their struggles, and triumphs. Before you know it, you’re lost in the story and have to know more because you either love them or hate them to your core!

Hartney is known for her captivating short stories and commentary on southern life, particularly anything horses. Her work can be found in publications throughout the south. This is her first novel, but she has previously published two short story collections: Washed in the Water, and If the Creek Don’t Rise. Both are treasures of exemplary storytelling.

If You Walk Long Enough proves that Hartney’s talent for storytelling thrives in the longer format. The novel tells the story of two Marines returning home from Vietnam to find a different reality than what they left in the tobacco fields of South Carolina. We see how they’ve changed as well as how each struggles to meld back into a normal life despite rampant racism, struggling family life, lost love, and their war-ravaged mental states.

Nancy Hartney’s first novel is available in select bookstores and at https://www.amazon.com/If-You-Walk-Long-Enough/dp/1509234624

A Few Words from If You Walk Long Enough:

  • Nattered, Natter: verb. To talk incessantly; chatter. noun. A conversation; chat. 

If You Walk Long Enough, Page 8: Blue jays nattered around the bird feeder, keeping the smaller finches and sparrows at bay.

  • Gullah: noun1. A member of a population of Black Americans inhabiting the Sea Islands and the coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida. 2. A creolized form of English spoken by the Gullahs, containing many words and grammatical features derived from African languages. 

If You Walk Long Enough, Page 8:  Ellie paused, and twisted the phone cord around her hand, released it, and grew sharp. “Diana and I work together. On the Chamber’s Gullah project. She’s a hired consultant. The whole project’s for tourism. And historical preservation. That’s all.”

  • Farrowing, Farrow: noun1. A litter of pigs. / verb 1. To give birth to (a litter of pigs) or bring forth young. / adj. 1. Not pregnant – generally when referring to a cow.

and

  • Shoat: noun1. A piglet recently weaned, usually less than a year old.

If You Walk Long Enough, Page 61:  Their place, five acres including the clapboard house, nestled in a cluster of trees, mostly oaks with several pecan trees and a black walnut on the east side. A farrowing pen and shoat closure sat behind the house with a vegetable garden taking a chunk of the remaining land. 

  • Disquiet: transitive verb1. To take away the peace or tranquility of. 2. Disturb 3. Alarm / noun1. A lack of peace or tranquility. 2. Anxiety / adjective1. uneasy

If You Walk Long Enough, Page 63:  A vague sense of disquiet settled on him whenever whites were around. He resented being treated as if uneducated, a non-person. He watched Reid approach, and, finally, as an afterthought, spoke.

  • Klicks, Klick: noun1. A synonym for kilometer commonly used by the U.S. and U.K. military, which use the metric system almost exclusively for communication with allied forces. 

If You Walk Long Enough, Page 184:  Several klicks outside his base camp, Reid had passed a makeshift Vietnamese civilian clinic compound. A Quonset hut sat among a jumble of small sheds and storage areas, covered with tattered pieces of plastic and corrugated metal. A freestanding tent, open sides yet suffocatingly hot, offered shade for the weekly medicine and food distribution. Scattered crude shelters housed the families of wounded and sick, until they either died, or found a way back to their village. Outside cooking rings, in various stages of use, smoked constantly, like trash burn-barrels dotting Reid’s rural Carolina homescape. 

  • Plumeria: noun1. Known as frangipani or Lei flowers, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Apocynaceae. Most species are deciduous shrubs or small trees native to tropical regions. 

If You Walk Long Enough, Page 202:  The whoomph of choppers, crinkle of body bags, and slap of Uncle Ho sandals became one sound. Metallic smells blended, hung unpleasant in the air overwhelming the delicate perfume of plumeria. Everything merged.

  • Abdication, Abdicate: verb1. To cast off, discard. 2. To relinquish (as sovereign power) formally. / intransitive verb1. To renounce a throne, high office, dignity, or function.

If You Walk Long Enough, Page 257:  He flipped the lighter open, lit up, and clicked it closed. He cupped the tip of his cigarette in his hands, hid the bright glow, took deep a drag, and exhaled. “Chinese filtered into the Nguyen dynasty centuries ago. They are the ones that forced the French abdication and started that bloody damn civil war. Then here we come, men-boys strutting along, waving guns, ready to save the world from Communism.”

Definitions are a mix from Merriam Webster’s, The New Oxford American Dictionary and others.

FULL and humble DISCLOSURE: I’m truly honored to say Nancy is a beloved friend. We share a writing critique group, a publisher, and a love for the craft. She’s also a retired librarian for the Fayetteville Public Library, where both my daughters were lucky enough to work part-time as library pages while students in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Don’t let that diminish a word I’ve said about this fantastic storyteller or you’ll miss out on a great reading experience. 

Find out more about this fantastic author at nancyhartney.com.

Nancy Hartney, author and poet

“The word is only a representation of the meaning; even at its best, writing almost always falls short of full meaning. Given that, why in God’s name would you want to make things worse by choosing a word which is only cousin to the one you really wanted to use?” ― Stephen KingOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Book of Words: “If the Creek Don’t Rise” by Nancy Hartney

This blog offers a different type of book review­—one that’s combined with vocabulary building. Included here, following a short review, are a few interesting words I found in If the Creek Don’t Rise, Tales from the South by Nancy Hartney.

Eighteen stories make up If the Creek Don’t Rise, each offering a glimpse of the deep south. They speak to the hardness of life, the goodness of life, and both the blessings and cost of love. What’s special about the stories in Hartney’s collection is her ability to layer in complexity in so few words. Complexity in the characters, complexity in the relationships between the characters, and complexity in the details of setting a scene. The tales come together quickly with careful precision of a truly talented writer who provides a satisfaction for the reader unheard of in most short stories. Think I’m kidding? Check out the short “postcard vignettes” where Hartney tells a story in just a few sentences.

One of my favorite tales in the book is King David and the Bookstore. I love the reminder of the goodness we gain for ourselves by being kind to others, and the thought of what missives we may leave behind to change another’s thoughts of our memory. Hartney’s expert weaving of words maximizes the emotional impact of her storylines. I loved the compassion I couldn’t help but feel for the plight of a prostitute and a man she befriends and loses in The Trickster. But every story pulled me in. Good writing makes for mesmerizing reading.

Reading If the Creek Don’t Rise makes me want to pick up Washed in the Water, Hartney’s first short story collection. Both of Harney’s books are published by Pen-L Publishing, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Just a Few Words from If the Creek Don’t Rise:

Withers: noun. Plural. The highest part of a horse’s back, lying at the base of the neck above the shoulders. The height of a horse is measured to the withers.

If the Creek Don’t Rise, Page 3: From separate vantage points they watched the jockey carefully balance his weight above the withers, grab a handful of mane, and will himself one with the chestnut colt for the thousand-pound jolt out of the gate.

Shedrow: nounA row of sheds; especially referring to a row of barns for horses at the start of a race track.

If the Creek Don’t Rise, Page 5:  After the final race, with the track emptying, Lady shuffled toward shedrow.

Mucking: noun. Dirt, rubbish or waste; Farmyard manure, widely used as fertilizer. verb. (muck up) informal. Mishandle (a job or situation); spoil (something)

If the Creek Don’t Rise, Page 23: Up every day before 4:00 a.m., Belle struggled to keep her grooming, rubbing and mucking covered while she tended Charles Allen.

Pirogue: noun. A long, narrow canoe made from a single tree trunk, especially in Central America and the Caribbean.

If the Creek Don’t Rise, Page 38:  Kenetta Broussard, an olive complexioned girl-woman, had grown up on the edge of Chokeberry Bayou poling a pirogue through cordgrass and across open channels, first with her father, and later, only the hound.

Patois: noun. The dialect of the common people of a region, differing in various respects from the standard language of the rest of the country; the jargon or informal speech used by a particular social group.

If the Creek Don’t Rise, Page 39: While they worked, in his soft patois, he explained the shallow-water pathways, great blue herons, bull gators, and water moccasins.

Coquina: noun.1. A soft limestone of broken shells, used in road-making in the Caribbean and Florida. 2. A small bivalve mollusk with wedge-shaped shell which has a wide variety of colors and patterns.

If the Creek Don’t Rise, Page 99: Before Jackson could respond, a grey Blazer crunched across the coquina shell parking area.

Minced: verb.1. Cut up or grind (food, especially meat) into very small pieces, typically in a machine with revolving blades. 2. Walk with an affected delicacy or fastidiousness, typically with short quick steps.

If the Creek Don’t Rise, Page 143:  She minced into the church meeting hall behind her sister and waddled toward tables groaning under casseroles, whole hams, deviled eggs, and baked sweet potatoes.

 Definitions are typically fromThe New Oxford American Dictionary.

Nancy Hartney, author and poet

FULL DISCLOSURE: Nancy is a beloved friend. We share a writing critique group, a publisher, and a love for the craft. She’s also a recently retired librarian for the Fayetteville Public Library, where both my daughters were lucky enough to work part-time as library pages while students in Fayetteville, Arkansas. But don’t let that diminish a word I’ve said about this fantastic storyteller or you’ll miss out on a great reading experience.

 

“The word is only a representation of the meaning; even at its best, writing almost always falls short of full meaning. Given that, why in God’s name would you want to make things worse by choosing a word which is only cousin to the one you really wanted to use?” Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

 

What interesting words have you taken note of lately?