The Southern Appalachian Mountains and haunted tales seem to go hand in hand. I grew up listening to countless folk tales about those mountains and the bizarre things that happened there so, when I saw Billy Coffey’s The Curse of Crow Hollow, I couldn’t resist and I don’t think you’ll be able to either. Small towns, superstitions, a need to explain the unexplainable – where could it all lead but to trouble with a capital T? And it makes a perfect book giveaway for the Halloween season, so be sure to enter!
The small Virginia Blue Ridge Mountain town of Crow Hollow lives under a curse and everyone in the town knows that. It’s been that way for a very long time and it’s why the town is dying out. Why would young people stay in a cursed town if they could escape? Now you may not believe in curses in the 21st century but that doesn’t change anything. When a town is cursed, it’s cursed – and this one is definitely cursed. The whole town knows it – they just don’t talk about it. The narrator is breaking the silence though to tell us because he believes it’s only fair to warn people about what they’re getting into if they’re evenly remotely thinking of moving to a quaint little town like this one.
How did the town get cursed? You’d have to ask Alvaretta Graves, a widow who lives like a recluse up on the mountain – but I wouldn’t go near her if I were you. Everyone in town knows she’s a witch, and she’s the one who put the curse on the town. Some say she had good reason to do it but that doesn’t change the fact that it was done and that the town is suffering because of it. Others say she’s a powerful and spiteful supernatural force to be reckoned with. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. There may be a few powerful people in town who know exactly what happened to cause Alvaretta to curse the town but those people aren’t talking (surprise, surprise).
Now everyone in the town knows better than to go up on Alvaretta’s mountainside but teenagers will be teenagers, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that some of them got the not-so-bright idea to beard the witch in her den, so to speak. You’d think it would have been the guys who came up with this daring adventure but you’d be wrong – it was, instead, Scarlett, one of the most popular girls in school. Why she felt the need to do it will remain a mystery for now. Why she tempted friends to join her in this adventure is pretty obvious; because her friends would do anything she told them to do.
“Something was wrong with those kids. I think Raleigh knew that the second he laid eyes on them. Some a them parents knew it too. Surely the rest of the young people did, most of them having spent the night before up in Harper’s Field waiting for a party that never started. And I’ll tell you this: the way they’d seen Scarlett and the rest come into church – like they weren’t trying to hide something as much as they were trying to push something away – only made them want to know more what had gone on.”
It may or may not have seemed like a fun prank at the time. After all Alvaretta probably just seemed like a batty old woman to these teens, despite her reputation. And it’s not like they actually planned to go knocking on her door or anything. They were just going up near one of the mines near her house to build a bonfire and fool around. Still, anyone with a lick of sense should have known that showing up in what Alvaretta considered her front yard (even if it wasn’t) would tick her off big time. So I guess it shouldn’t be any surprise what happened next. Unfortunately what happened next resulted in a horrific seemingly incurable sickness, and rumors of a man risen from the dead to seek revenge on the town. And those things bring the town’s most powerful leaders (some of whom know exactly why Alvaretta hates this town) to her front door. And that’s when all hell breaks loose – literally.
“Kayann grit her teeth, ‘You are a vile creature, Medric Johnston.’
Bucky said, “Shut up, Kayann.’
Yessir, that’s exactly what he said. And I guess he figured that since he’d gone and said it, he might as well go on and say the rest.
‘We can all stand here laying blame till we’re blue in the face, there’s plenty to go around. Hays or Scarlett or Cordy or Medric, it don’t matter. But wasn’t none of them kids laid those footprints. Didn’t none a them take that bracelet. It was Alvaretta. She made our girls sick. That’s what we need to be talking about, and we need to be talking about how that woman knew your names just from looking on your kids. Wilson? David? Landis. Alvaretta knew your kids. She knew you. How is that?’
Friend, if you’d seen the way the Reverend and the mayor looked at each other just then, you’d have understood there was plenty they knew on how that was. But now wasn’t the time to be getting into the past…”
This town’s story is firmly rooted in superstition and the supernatural but its more realistic roots also aren’t that unusual. Billy Coffey has a knack for taking real life and giving it just enough of a twist to make us squirm. Small town Southern folk in the past have often made up reasons for things they didn’t understand, and demonized and/or ostracized people who didn’t quite fit in. Is Alvaretta really a witch or is she just a scapegoat? Who is the real force behind the town’s curse?
The Curse of Crow Hollow walks a fine line between reality and myth, delving into the shadow side of small town Southern life – the side no one ever talks about, except our brave narrator. Billy Coffey has written a captivating and, yes, thoroughly wicked tale that’s perfect for the Halloween season. Who hasn’t walked past a decrepit house at night and shuddered for a moment until common sense kicked in, wondering what kind of person or creature lives there? Could that bent-over and gnarled old woman you see working in her garden be a witch gathering the ingredients for a curse? Where does truth lie and what is the product of an over-active imagination? We all love tales of the supernatural, and this roller-coaster ride kept me spellbound!
Can’t wait to read it?
The Curse of Crow Hollow was published on August 4, 2015, so it’s available from your favorite online bookseller below.
I’d love to get your comments on The Curse of Crow Hollow, Billy Coffey and/or his other work, and/or this review.
One lucky reader will win a finished trade paperback copy of The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey!
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 10/31/2015, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
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