Guy, Carolyn. (2011). Autumn Bends the Rebel Tree. Vilas: Canterbury House Publishing.
Textbook Chapter: 8
Sub-genre: Historical Fiction
Possible Curriculum Connections: High school social studies class about the Great Depression, World War II, Rural Appalachia, etc.
Autumn Bends the Rebel Tree is a novel set in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina during the Great Depression and World War II. The novel tells the story of Clarinda, a girl born in a poor family during this time period. It tells how Clarinda grows up, meets her husband Rufus as a teenager, and then goes on to have 17 children of her own. Unfortunately, Clarinda suffered many tragedies in her life. The first was the death of her twin babies who died at just a few months of age. Next, her beloved husband, Rufus, passed away of a stroke at a very young age. Later on in the story, her home catches on fire, and some of her children were burned. Another tragedy in Clarinda’s life was the fact that her son, Olis, died while fighting in World War II. Clarinda eventually marries a man who promises to take care of her and her children, but ends up treating them poorly. Eventually, Clarinda and her children move back to their home place, and many of her children get married and begin families of their own. Overall, the book was simply about the struggles of surviving life in rural Appalachia.
Personal Reactions/ Why Teens Would or Not Read this Novel:
I am sad to say that I did not love this book. I really struggled with the dialect and the way that it was written. I felt like the flow of the book was kind of jumpy as well. I enjoyed learning about the time period and how life was really like in the Appalachian Mountains, but I struggled with the character development of all the children and the way the chapters were segmented by year and jumped around. However, I loved the fact that this novel was based on the author’s family, and that Guy is a local author. I think that the ideas within the book were great, and it was interesting to see how Clarinda, the main character, grew up from a teenager to an older lady. She was definitely strong, and she sets a good example of an independent female protagonist! I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy learning about the Appalachian culture and those who enjoy reading different dialects. However, I am not sure that young adults would want to read this novel. It does not meet many of the criteria of young adult literature, like telling the story from a young adult’s perspective, fast paced, etc. Some teens may enjoy this novel, but I do not think it would have widespread acclaim from teens.