THE BALLAD OF LAUREL SPRINGS: A Novel
By Janet Beard
Gallery Books ❖ October 5, 2021
A provocative new work about the long, winding tale of the women in one East Tennessee family.
The book finds a new way to explore the depth of its characters and their actions over the course of several generations. Beard illustrates how each generation’s present trauma was predicted by past events, as well as how the stories and songs shared about those events affect the generations to come. The narratives are not always straightforward, in the conflicting ways that victimhood, gender, and poverty combine to shape the awful outcomes.
Janet Beard’s stirring novel, informed by her love of these haunting ballads, vividly imagines each woman, defined by the secrets they keep, the surprises they uncover, and the lurking sense of menace that follows them throughout their lives.
From the author of the international bestseller The Atomic City Girls, Janet Beard’s THE BALLAD OF LAUREL SPRINGS is a provocative new novel about multiple generations of women in one East Tennessee family haunted by violence and redeemed by their rich inheritance of folk music—out from Gallery Books this fall.
A gifted storyteller, Beard brings her native East Tennessee to life with grace and empathy.
This book is a stunner."
PRAISE FOR THE BALLAD OF LAUREL SPRINGS AND JANET BEARD'S WORK:
"Lyrical, atmospheric and deeply moving, Janet Beard's new novel, The Ballad of Laurel Springs, explores the legacies--of passion and violence, music and faith--that haunt one family across the generations.—Jillian Medoff, author of This Could Hurt
"The Ballad of Laurel Springs sets the resonant violence of family secrets to the music of the mountains. With tenderness and grit, Janet Beard celebrates the harmonies of survival that run generations deep. Never has it felt more necessary--or more electric--for a story to be heard through song."—Amy Jo Burns, author of Cinderland and Shiner
"An intriguing multi-generational saga of a family steeped in the old-time songs and stories of southern Appalachia...tinged with regret and loss, informed by the timeless lyricism of the songs, and culminating with a poignant revelation about Grace's immediate family. This inspired story of Appalachian folklore will move readers."—Publishers Weekly
"Janet Beard’s powerful novel unfolds with the intricate weaving of generations of unforgettable women’s vivid voices. An illuminating glimpse into the eerie murder ballads of history, The Ballad of Laurel Springs is compelling historical fiction at its best.”
—Patti Callahan, author of Surviving Savannah and Becoming Mrs. Lewis
ABOUT THE BALLAD OF LAUREL SPRINGS:
Ten-year-old Grace is in search of a subject for her fifth-grade history project when she learns that her four times-great grandfather once stabbed his lover to death.
His grisly act was memorialized in a murder ballad, her aunt tells her, so it must be true.
But the lessons of that revelation—to be careful of men and desire—are not just Grace’s to learn. Her family’s tangled past is part of a dark legacy in which the lives of generations of women are affected by the violence immortalized in folk songs like “Knoxville Girl” and “Pretty Polly” reminding them to always know their place—or risk the wages of sin.
Inspired by a shocking pair of murders involving classmates from her school days in Tennessee, Beard began to look for links between contemporary violence and traditional Appalachian folk music, particularly murder ballads, which usually focus of the killing of young women.
She wondered why these stories resonate generation after generation in this particular region of the country? Does the grim history of Appalachia connect to the modern day crimes of her former classmates?
THE BALLAD OF LAUREL SPRINGS considers:-violence against women examined over the course of several generations.-the link between this violence and the folk songs made popular by Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Nick Cave, and others.-disrespect against women is built into the culture as evident in our songs.
Janet Beard’s stirring novel, informed by her love of these haunting ballads, vividly imagines these women, defined by the secrets they keep, the surprises they uncover, and the lurking sense of menace that follows them throughout their lives.
With the same rich sense of place as BLOODROOT or SERENA, SPRINGS is an unforgettable portrait of women fighting to create a safe place in the world for themselves and the people they love.
Born and raised in East Tennessee, Janet Beard studied screenwriting at NYU and went on to earn an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She is the bestselling author of The Atomic City Girls and The Ballad of Laurel Springs. She currently lives in Columbus, Ohio.
• Immersive Setting Of East Tennessee: Having grown up in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, Beard seamlessly adapts her setting as a key figure, spanning the generations of her storytelling. In some cases, Beard was inspired by tragic events that took place in her rural hometown. She takes us through the industrialization of Tates Valley, a small town in the Smoky Mountains, and its transformation from an isolated farming community to a bustling tourist hub, in the 120-year span of the novel.
• Appalachian Folklore and Folk Music: Beard links the violence of Appalachian culture with the regional folk songs, particularly the murder ballads, which usually focus on the killing of young women. She wondered why these stories resonate generationally in this area, in tunes made popular by Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Nick Cave, and others. The novel illuminates how the community’s mistreatment of women is reflected in its folklore and music.
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