Sharyn McCrumb reads at Malaprop’s, Oct. 26

New York Times bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb, known for her Appalachian ballad novels, is based in Virginia. But she’s got ties to Western North Carolina — a theatrical version of her novel, Ghost Riders was staged at Parkway Playhouse in June.

McCrumb returns to Asheville on Sunday, Oct. 26 with her new book, Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past: A Ballad Novella. She’ll read at Malaprop’s at 3 p.m.

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In advance, McCrumb shared a post written in the voice of her character, Nora Bonesteel:

Between the pages of the novels we adore, we meet characters we love and some we love to hate. We recognize their kindness, compassion, stubbornness, and tenacity. We love that they have the courage we don’t, the patience we lack, the humor we desperately want. For better or worse, we relate—or want to relate. And when that last page turns, we miss them. They stick with us, and yet they have been silenced. Until now. What if we can revisit with these characters that have captivated our minds and stolen our hearts? What if we could hear more from…

Nora Bonesteel in Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past

This necklace? Why, I’ve worn this little stone cross for nearly as long as I can remember. The string of beads it’s on is new, though. My neighbor Charlotte Pentland made it for me, back when she was studying geology at East Tennessee State. She was most particular about telling me what stones she used to make it. The dark mottled green beads are serpentine, her favorite stone. Mountain DNA, she calls it. Charlotte says that a long time ago—before the Atlantic Ocean existed, in fact—these mountains of ours were connected to the mountains in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. She says that a vein of this serpentine mineral snakes its way all along the path of the mountains, breaking off at the northern end of New Brunswick, Canada and picking up again in the mountains of Ireland—they’re all the same mountains. Our frontier ancestors didn’t know that, but when they settled here, they were right back in the same mountains they had just left.

The lighter green stones with a dash of pink in them are Unakite, because they come from these Unaka Mountains, where I live. People call Unakite the seer’s stone, because they say it helps you attain the Sight. I didn’t need any help there, but they are pretty little stones, so I let her put them on, too.

The pendant, a little stone cross was given to me when I was a child, the time I went wandering out alone on the mountain and got lost. I wasn’t too afraid at first, because it was summer and the weather was good, but when suppertime came and went, and twilight came, I sat down on a rock at the bottom of a steep ridge, and began to cry. A little while later, I realized I wasn’t alone. Beside me stood a stranger—a small, dark-haired woman, wearing a deer skin dress and moccasins. Her skin had a coppery glow, and she was smiling at me, to let me know I needn’t be afraid.

“Are you lost, child?”

“Yes’m,” I said. “I must have got turned around somehow. I can’t figure out which way is home.”

She nodded. “Well, I suppose I could set you on the right path, child—unless you’d rather come with me.” She pointed to a vine-covered opening in the embankment that I hadn’t seen before. “Through that cave there.”

“You live in a cave?’

“Not in the cave, but through it. On the other side, you will find a beautiful land where it is always summer, and the tomatoes and corn are always ripe and good. Where I live, no one ever gets sick and no one ever grows old. Would you like to come and live there?”

I shook my head. “My grandmother will be worrying about me. I need to go home.”

She nodded. “Perhaps that would be best. Follow me and I’ll take you back to the edge of the woods by your farm. But take this.” She reached into her pocket and took out this little stone cross. She pressed it into the palm of my hand. “You are young yet, child, but someday… someday if you find that your bones ache, and you can’t see to thread your needle, and you dread the coming of the winter cold, then you hold that cross in your hand, and call for me. I’ll come to you, and we’ll see what choice you make then.”

I’ve kept this little cross ever since that day, and now that so many years have gone by, I understand what she meant. I may see her again someday, but not for a while yet. Not for a while.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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