On Agate Hill
Sep 27, 2011
On Agate Hill
Author: Lee Smith
Publisher: Algonquin Paperbacks
Publication Date: 2006
From the Publisher:
It is 1872, Agate Hill, North Carolina. On her thirteenth birthday, Molly Petree peeps out the chink of a window from her secret hiding place up in the eaves of a tumbledown old plantation house to survey a world gone wild, all expectations overthrown, all order gone. “I know I am a spitfire and a burden,” she begins her diary. “I do not care. My family is a dead family, and this is not my home, for I am a refugee girl…but evil or good I will write it all down every true thing in black and white upon the page, for evil or good it is my own true life and I WILL have it. I will.”
Carefully she places the diary in her treasured “box of phenomena” which will contain “letters, poems, songs, court records, marbles, rocks, dolls, and a large collection of bones, some human and some not” by the time it is found during a historic renovation project in 2003.
The contents of Molly’s box make up this extraordinary novel which chronicles her passionate, picaresque journey across” the whole curve of the earth” –through love, betrayal, motherhood, a murder trial---and finally back to Agate Hill to end her days under circumstances that even she could never have imagined.
What Idgie Says:
This is a fascinating story, one told over 100 years after it’s occurrence, of a young girl who must find her way in the world after her parents do not survive the Civil War. She becomes a warden of a distant relative and before the end of the novel…when she once again returns to Agate Hill as it’s owner… she endures loneliness, neglect, rape, a loveless marriage and everything else a woman of that time might deal with whilst on her own.
The story is told through the letters and other miscellany papers that a distant relative discovers in the house during renovations in 2003. The story veers between past and present.
I will be honest, some readers will enjoy all the various styles of writing and how the story is told, while others may feel some frustration at all the hopping around. It really depends on your own reading preference.