Pieces of Yesterday
The cover of Pieces of Yesterday reads “Quilting Romance.” I confess that having read this book I am still not sure what the publisher is going for with this line of stories. The intent seems to be to create a kind of homespun atmosphere, not unlike the old TV series, The Waltons, or The Andy Griffith Show but set in the late nineteenth century. In such a book, romance is supplemented by a cast of folksy characters and heartwarming subplots.
I enjoy this kind of story but writing one is trickier than it looks. Rustic characters have to be recognizable without being stereotypical. Period detail must create a convincing atmosphere. Pieces of Yesterday has none of these things and the result is a tedious, unconvincing book.
Set in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in 1879, the story begins when canal boatman Rush Duncan arrives at the home of Alexandria Paine (who lives with her mother) with a ten year old girl. The child, Caro, is the daughter of the heroine’s long lost Aunt Charlotte. Since Aunt Charlotte and her family have died of cholera, it falls on Alexandria and her mother to raise the girl. Caro adores Rush and makes him promise to visit her every time the boat passes through. These brief visits lead to the love story between Rush and Alexandria.
Rush and Alexandria are a couple straight out of rural America central casting. She is a pretty spinster who wishes to avoid the “rootless” boatmen who work the C&O Canal. Rush Duncan is the son of the town “loose woman” who tells himself that he doesn’t want to ever marry and that “Alexandry” is too good for him anyway. It turns out that Alexandria and Rush have a long history of childhood bickering. They immediately resume the old banter and continue arguing throughout the story. Since neither Alexandria nor Rush has, apparently, have progressed much in the art of conversation, this quickly becomes tiresome. He calls her “Alexandry.” She accuses him, on no basis whatsoever, of loose morals. She insists on calling him “Mr. Duncan” though she’s known him all her life. I found the love/hate relationship to be forced at best.
The language in the book is inconsistent to the point of being distracting. Sometimes characters use folksy terms like “reckon.” At other times they speak standard English. There are a few times when they fall into modern colloquialisms as when Rush thinks about “hooking up” with a local prostitute.
Throughout most of the book the couple is apart. He is on his boat. She is back in Harpers Ferry trying to be a friend to Caro. Alexandria also spends much time being mercilessly teased by members of the quilting circle about her spinsterish ways. There are many homey secondary characters, none of whom came to life. Two such characters are Leona the town gossip and her sister Rosellen, who wears silly hats. One is difficult, the other sweet. I believe this was supposed to be lovable but it reminded me far too much of the elderly spinster sisters on The Waltons.
The book ends ends with a dramatic flood which, is apparently taken directly from history. Things do liven up a bit when Rush takes his boat and goes to save his friends from the rushing water. This ending made sense and, for the first time I began to believe a bit in the characters.
In creating “Quilting Romances,” Jove seems to be attempting to capture some of the charm of American rural life. Pieces of Yesterday is not badly written enough to rate a lower grade but it is a poor example of this kind of tale. If you’re in the mood for a quaint romance in a rural American setting I would suggest you look elsewhere.
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|Review Date:||May 26, 1999|