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Skeet Apples

Nellie Mae Batson

 

Also Available on Amazon Kindle

 

In Swinson we followed the Swinson clan from Scotland, to Ireland, and after a harrowing Atlantic crossing, to the eastern North Carolina community of Maple Hill. There we watched in amazement as the clan acclimated to the lowlands, prospered and multiplied. They were a tough, proud bunch of farmers. Swinson ended with the third generation in place; still proud, still hard-working, prolific and occasionally erupting in typical country folk mini-feuds.

Skeet Apples begins where Swinson left off and follows the family into the twentieth century, still proud, still prolific and still the center of the reader’s attention.

 

ISBN 978-1-934936-03-0

 

Paperback-348 pages-$20.00(US)

 

 

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Reviewed By

Elizabeth Silance Ballard

 

This poignant story of pride and struggle is a sequel to SWINSON.”   However, it easily stands alone as a book which gives a vivid picture of life on an eastern North Carolina family farm during and after the Depression of the 1930s.

            Although there is a lot of love in the large, blended Swinson family, we see that the family dynamics brought about much heartache—heartache which becomes our own.  We want to hug the little girls who lost their mother so early in life.  We want to comfort them as they began to realize that the new mother, Ar Dell, is not who they expected and needed.

            Even with the cruel streak we see evident in Ar Dell, the author still manages to elicit our empathy for this young woman who married in haste and on the rebound, finding life much harder than her girlhood dreams.

            We are angry as Ar Dell punishes her young stepdaughters unmercifully.  We want to shake her until her teeth rattle when she has the little girls do most of the housework and cooking, in addition to their other chores, while she sits and reads romance magazines.  At the same time we recognize that her reading, and living life vicariously through that reading, is something she needed to sustain herself and helped  put rose colored glasses in her real life. It may have been what enabled her to stay true to her commitment to Ederd when the old boyfriend returned.

            At times we don’t want to like Ederd.  Yet, we can’t help but love and admire this conscientious, hard working, devoted to the family man.  It is evident that he loved all his children but he was not a man to overly express that love on a daily basis.  Ederd knew life is hard business.  He knew one doesn’t prepare a child for that life without making them strong.

            Softness was not a way of life for farm families in this period of our history.  He could not allow his children to fret and cry over things.  They had to be strong and keep going.  Even the smallest among them learned that lesson early.

            Readers who are not familiar with this particular North Carolina dialect may find it a little difficult at first; but, after a few pages will get a feel for the flow and rhythm of it.  The author has used phonetics very well to express the dialect. For those of us who grew up hearing this way of speaking, it has a comforting quality, a “going home” feeling. 

            The symbolism of the skeet apples is not revealed until late in the story; but is, perhaps, the most touching scene of many touching scenes.  It is a scene where three young girls are finally, truly validated, their sense of self-worth brought to the surface of their being by a loving and insightful aunt.

            The extended family and neighbors played a huge role in the life of all family members.  It was a time when individualism had to give way to what was needed for the good of all. Yet, this aunt saw the beauty and symbolism of the skeet apples in relation to her beloved nieces. The cover illustration of the three girls and the skeet apple tree is particularly poignant, capturing the innocence and vulnerability of the sisters.

            The epilogue is a summation, telling us of each Swinson child’s life as he or she moved away from the family farm into lives of their own.  It allows us to leave the book on good terms with a feeling of satisfaction.  As in prior books, Nellie Mae Batson has been able to convey a vivid and vibrant glimpse into life as once lived in eastern North Carolina.