Where Honesty Never Ends.
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Simmering beneath the skin and hiding around every corner are a family’s painful memories of a child who disappeared in the middle of the night 30 years ago.
Following her mother’s motorcycle accident, Georgie Haydock returns to the mountain tourist town at the foot of Chimney Rock State Park. But the summer is full of turmoil. As Georgie tries to perform her nursing duties, her mother thrashes in her bed, insisting that the strange woman stalking her store downstairs is Georgie’s missing sister. Meanwhile, Georgie aches to reunite with her childhood sweetheart, but she’s too ashamed of the guilt that drove her away 15 years earlier. For his part, Ron Elliott, the state park’s naturalist, doesn’t care what Georgie did all those years back. She’s the one creature he’s always yearned to possess.
Dancing on Rocks weaves through the network of memories, secrets, and mutual dependencies holding together Chimney Rock, an isolated community of 112 people tucked into Hickory Nut Gorge. Thousands of visitors stream through the tourist destination every week. But in reality, the people in the town have only each other.
First let’s take a look at Wordsmith Andi’s thoughts.
The Wordsmith Weighs In
Dancing on Rocks was a surprisingly engaging read. Focusing on the main character of Georgie Hydock, recently returned to her hometown of Chimney Rock Village at the base of the same-named gorge and famous landmark Dancing on Rocks takes you on a slow observation of southern mountain life in a small tourist town. Georgie has come back to town to help take care of her capricious mother after a nasty accident on her motorcycle leaves her wounded and temporarily physically disabled. Having trained as a nurse, Georgie is perfectly suited for the job. However, her return to her hometown raises up old ghosts like those of her lost and drowned younger sister, a father deceased six months, and a romance tragically ended too soon. All of which she expected but none of which she readily wants to engage in. The past is a place full of memories she’d rather not relive, rekindle or address. Yet small town life has a way of dredging up the most ancient of secrets, reminding us of unspoken bonds that only close physical proximity over dozens of generations can generate. Georgie has no choice but to face her past, confess certain truths, and hopefully find blessing and relief in doing so, not only for herself but for everyone involved.
Rose Senehi knows the people and culture she writes about. In the final pages of this book she discusses how the plot came to be, acknowledging several people upon whom she based certain characters. I appreciated this explanation. Sometimes these little tidbits take away from the overall shine of a story but in this case Senehi isn’t boastful, only illuminating the lengths to which she went in order to compose what turned out to be a historically rich, factually detailed and relevant story. Her characters stand up and off the page, reaching out to engage you, perhaps because they are modeled on real people. I rooted for Georgie and Ron, felt (nominally) sad about Mary, and enjoyed the familial relationships. The mystery surrounding the drowning of Georgie’s youngest sister Shelby plays an active subplot that works well as supporting foundation for the resolutions of many relationships Georgie’s teenage departure from the village cast asunder. This was a wonderful tale of reconciliation and healing set among familiar scenery that captured the imagination being as much a character as the human cast. Senehi’s writing evokes the Blue Ridge Mountains with adroit skill, reminding me of childhood vacations to the area (including a trip to Chimney Rock many, many years ago).
Notwithstanding a few minor editing misses (for instance, Georgie is at one point on the phone with her sister, slamming her fist down on the table next to the phone and then somehow miraculously ends up in the same room with this same sister having the conversation but no longer on the phone), I give Dancing On Rocks high marks. While not a stunner this book was an enjoyable read.
My rating: 9 out of 10 TRB Stars.
Now, let’s look at what Harmony Kent has to say.
Dancing on Rocks is a fictional book set in the Chimney Rock area of NC, and it is obvious from the outset that the author has done her research. The opening is strong and sets the reader up to expect a gripping read; unfortunately, it then fails to deliver. The “big secret” is given away right at the outset, and the pace is slow.
The characters all read as the same, with no great personality differences hitting the reader to differentiate them, and there are a lot of names to get used to in a short space. The point of view moves between a lot of different characters throughout the book, even the more minor ones. All of which made it difficult for me to connect with any one of them enough to actually care what happened. The only reason I finished this book is that I had been asked to give it an honest review. I really wanted to enjoy this read, but I ended up bored with it and had to force myself to continue.
The writing style is passive, and there are many hiccups along the way. One such example is using contradicting actions, such as “slowly glancing over his shoulder.” By definition, a glance is a quick look, and there is nothing slow about it. The majority of actions are delayed with “starting to” or “began to,” instead of just getting into it. Filter words abound, especially “he or she knew,” which again puts something in the way of the character and the action.
The narrative is also full of “telling” rather than “showing.” I don’t want to be “told” someone is angry, I want to be shown: what mannerisms show that particular character’s mood? How can you tell he or she is annoyed? And if someone has just made a demand within dialogue, I don’t then need a dialogue tag that “tells” me “she demanded,” because it’s just been shown.
While the character development is shallow, the book does give a lot of depth to the history of Chimney Rock and its surrounding area, and the scene setting is done in detail, so it is easy to imagine yourself alongside the river, or walking through the tall trees. If this amount of attention and depth were given to the character and plot development, this would be a cracking read. I give it 5 out of 10 TRB stars, which equates to 2.5 stars on other rating scales.
Now let’s take the scores of the Wordsmith and Harmony and divide by two for the final TRB rating.
7 TRB Stars
Overall, Dancing on Rocks receives 7 out of 10 TRB Stars.
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