Starred Review for Lord of the Mountain
In 1927, the “big bang” of country music occurred in a hotel in Bristol, TN, when folk artists like Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family were recorded for the brand new Victrola record players. For 13-year-old Nate Owens, these recording sessions open up a new world of technology and music, both of which are forbidden by his preacher father’s strict beliefs. As Nate struggles to understand his father and the mysteries of his family’s past, he runs away from home, rides the rails, and eventually finds work as a car mechanic for A.P. Carter and Lesley “Esley” Riddle, scouring rural Appalachia for songs to record.
This remarkable novel deftly winds history and fiction together in a compelling and moving story of music and identity. From unionization clashes to racial segregation, religious snake handling to mass poverty and unemployment, this historical novel explores the rapidly changing world of Prohibition-era Appalachia with incredible nuance and thoughtfulness. Through Nate’s honest and engaging first-person narration, Kidd crafts a voice and a journey that is, like the Carter Family’s songs, both old and new, rooted in tradition yet fresh and distinct.
VERDICT: Beautiful and intelligent historical fiction in the vein of Christopher Paul Curtis, Vince Vawter, and Mildred D. Taylor. A must-have for school and public library collections.
School Library Journal (starred)