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On Agate Hill: A Novel

On Agate Hill: A Novel

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3.79

(142)
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Published by Workman Publishing
A dusty box discovered in the wreckage of a once prosperous plantation on Agate Hill in North Carolina contains the remnants of an extraordinary life: diaries, letters, poems, songs, newspaper clippings, court records, marbles, rocks, dolls, and bones. It's through these treasured mementos that we meet Molly Petree. Raised in those ruins and orphaned by the Civil War, Molly is a refugee who has no interest in self-pity. When a mysterious benefactor appears out her father's past to rescue her, she never looks back. Spanning half a century, On Agate Hill follows Molly’s passionate, picaresque journey through love, betrayal, motherhood, a murder trial—and back home to Agate Hill under circumstances she never could have imagined.
A dusty box discovered in the wreckage of a once prosperous plantation on Agate Hill in North Carolina contains the remnants of an extraordinary life: diaries, letters, poems, songs, newspaper clippings, court records, marbles, rocks, dolls, and bones. It's through these treasured mementos that we meet Molly Petree. Raised in those ruins and orphaned by the Civil War, Molly is a refugee who has no interest in self-pity. When a mysterious benefactor appears out her father's past to rescue her, she never looks back. Spanning half a century, On Agate Hill follows Molly’s passionate, picaresque journey through love, betrayal, motherhood, a murder trial—and back home to Agate Hill under circumstances she never could have imagined.

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Publish date: Jan 1, 2006
Added to Scribd: Aug 01, 2013
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9781565125773
List Price: $13.95

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01/09/2015

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9781565125773

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Publishers Weekly reviewed this
Following her 2001 Southern Book Critics Circle award-winning novel, The Last Girls, Smith's 10th novel chronicles the post-Civil War life of a precocious Southern orphan using a slapdash patchwork of journal entries, letters, poems, recipes, songs, catechism and court records. Molly Petree, the daughter of a slain Confederate soldier, begins a diary on her 13th birthday in May 1872, near Hillsborough, N.C., at Agate Hill, the plantation of her legal guardian, Uncle Junius Hall. Seeing herself as "a ghost girl wafting through this ghost house," Molly falls under the spiteful devices of Selena, the scheming housekeeper, who marries a terminally ill Junius to inherit the plantation. Under Selena's watch, Molly is neglected, mistreated and raped before Simon Black, who fought alongside Molly's father, rescues her and enrolls her in the Gatewood Academy, where she becomes "an educated, fancy woman." After graduating, Molly marries sweet-talking Jacky, but tragedy dogs her: Jacky dies a particularly miserable death, their baby dies and when Molly returns to Agate Hill, she finds it in ruins. Molly's story is moving, but Smith's structure the narrative's pieces are the contents of "a box of old stuff" found during Agate Hill's renovation is needlessly contrived. (Sept. 19) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

2006-07-31, Publishers Weekly
julie10reads reviewed this
Rated 4/5
The story of a self-described "ghost girl" who survives the Civil War devastation that claims her family is told in the North Carolina author's rich, complex 12th novel (after The Last Girls, 2002). History buffs will delight in this lush tale of a Southern teenager orphaned by the Civil War, raised first by an uncle, then sent to boarding school. Molly becomes a teacher and forsakes it all to marry an uneducated ladies' man. The description is intense, and the pace is so slow that you drink in every word, almost without realizing how far the plot has progressed. Summary BPLMy first Lee Smith novel will certainly not be my last. Although I don't typically read novels written in the form of journals, diaries or letters, I gave On Agate Hill a try based on its many positive reviews. I am happy I did! It was like watching a tapestry being woven and wondering which threads would form the main part of the design and which would trail off into the background. Ms Smith has a wonderful, long story to tell--some may not appreciate the diverse forms it takes, such as an excerpt from a catechism--a sort of Reconstruction odyssey. The narrative unfolds from Molly's point of view and this colloquial approach gives the story an oral feel, as though old Molly were in the room with you instead of you reading words on a page. That's how vivid and authentic the characters seem, some enduring the entire book while others briefly flame, then go out. Rather like real life!8 out 10. Civil War and American history buffs will find rich content here (Ms Smith did her research); recommended to fans of strong female protagonists and women's lives in 19th century America. Highly recommended to those who appreciate fine writing.
audacity_1 reviewed this
Rated 5/5
I've just finished reading this haunting, beautifully written novel. Smith has crafted a touching tale with characters so human and real I felt as though I could reach through the pages and clasp their hands. This lovely piece of American historical fiction pulls readers into the deeply entangled lives of Molly Petree and her unusual family, both blood-relatives and those she attracts with her gravitas, intelligence and dark whimsy.This was the first book I've read by Smith, and certainly not the last! I would recommend this to a reader who can enjoy strong, vivid prose and wonderful plots. This is a winner!
bookwormteri reviewed this
Rated 3/5
Just okay. I thought that it would be richer, but it was just okay. Meh...
riofriotex reviewed this
Rated 3/5
This book was the November 2010 selection for my local book club. It's historical fiction, set in the South, covering a post-Civil War period running from May1872 to July 1927. The book centers on Molly Petree, an orphan who is thirteen years old when the book begins. Much of the story is told from Molly's viewpoint, in the form of her diary and letters she writes to a childhood friend, Mary White. Other narrators of Molly's story include a favorite teacher, Agnes Rutherford; Agnes' sister, the mean schoolmistress Mariah Snow; B.J. Jarvis, Molly's husband's cousin; and Simon Black, Molly's benefactor. Most of these also speak through letters and journal entries, but B.J.'s tale is told in court testimony.Tying these narrators together is a 2006 ditzy student named Tuscany Miller, who has supposedly found these documents at Agate Hill plantation, which her (weird) family has purchased to turn into a bed-and-breakfast. Tuscany is hoping that turning in all the stuff she finds will satisfy her "documentary studies program" thesis requirements. As if. This stupid storyline is thankfully brief and completely unnecessary.Molly's story is interesting for the glimpses it gives into life in the South in the mid-1870s on a struggling plantation in North Carolina and at an all-girls school in Virginia, as well as in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in the years following.Unfortunately, I did not find Molly or most of the people around her to be particularly likable characters (the exception being Agnes). There was too much unnecessary detail about her childhood (and not enough about the events of that time that really mattered), and I found the premise of a thirteen-year-old recording such detail in a diary to be unrealistic. I had a hard time getting through this part of the book.The book gets a little better after that, although Mariah's actions are puzzling, and Molly makes a number of poor choices and is beset with tragedy. If I'd had to read the book in print, I'm not sure I would have been able to finish it. The audiobook made it much easier, with six voices: Danielle Ferland (Tuscany Miller), Kate Forbes (Molly Petree), Katie Firth (Agnes Rutherford), Linda Stephens (Mariah Snow), Ed Sala (BJ Jarvis), and Tom Stechschulte (Simon Black). Forbes, Firth, and Stephens are particularly good, with the first two having just the right amount of Southern accent, and Stephens effectively conveying the instability of Mariah.Each of the 15 discs begins and ends with folk music by Alice Gerrard, whose song "Agate Hill" inspired Lee Smith to write the novel. Smith wrote the words to the ballad "Molly and the Traveling Man," which Gerrard set to music.© Amanda Pape - 2010
lcbrooks_1 reviewed this
Rated 5/5
When she attains a treasure trove of source documents found at Agate Hill, Tuscany Miller's she gains a unique insight into the life of a Molly Petree. Her findings lead Tuscan to research what happened Molly in after Agate Hill and to confince her former academic advisor that she Agate Hill is her thesis.
cyderry reviewed this
Rated 3/5
This book, set after the Civil War, is the life story of a woman, telling of the losses of her lifetime. The premise is the finding, by a student, of the diaries and letters of a woman in a secret room in Agate Hill Plantation. As a child after her family is lost, Molly is taken in at Agate Hill, a plantation owned by her Uncle Junius and Aunt Fanny. After adjusting to her new environment under the care of her Aunt Fanny, Molly loses Aunt Fanny in childbirth. Her uncle becomes despondent and lets the plantation become rundown. Uncle Junius' sister comes to help with the running of the house bringing her granddaughter who becomes Molly's first and dearest friend. This friendship is the basis of the letters that are used as the narrative after Molly goes off to a girl's school. The narrative continues with her travels to the opening a school in the Appalachian mountains, through her marriage, the death of children and husband, the coroner's trial, and her return to Agate Hill.This book was interesting but I think it was a bit too long. It was disjointed in the section of Molly's original stay in Agate Hill. I think that it was unnecessary to have the student continually interrupting the storyline.
patricia_poland_2 reviewed this
Rated 5/5
Beautiful haunting story of Molly Petree begins in 1872 when she is an orphan at 13. "I was born before the surrender" she writes in her diary. This is a story of love - the need for it -- from her mysterious benefactor to her best friend, Mary White, whom she writes to for years. Then there is the love of a pupil for their teacher, later her 'demon lover' and then Junius (Juney) as she comes full circle back to Agate Hill and her diary. A rich, sad, sweet, silly, hard and strange life was Molly's and I was proud that I got to 'know' her.
davidingreensboro reviewed this
Rated 5/5
One of Lee Smith's best novels. Most of the novel is a collection of fictional diary entries by Molly Petree, beginning with her preteen years just after the Civil War to the eve of her death in the 1920s. Molly's voice is distinctive; she's a well drawn character--one of those who, if she were to walk in the door right now, you'd recognize her.A lot of historical research went into this novel to give it the ring of authenticity, but you never get the sense that the author is showing off her findings. The result is a textured, realistic, and engaging narrative that draws the reader into Molly's world.The only thing I didn't like is this: The setup for the story is that a modern-day student finds Molly's diary in a box at the plantation and organizes them in an effort at writing a thesis. Interspersed throughout the book are letters from this fictional student to her professor. It's not that they are poorly done, just unnecessary. Molly's story could stand on its own--she's much more interesting than the student. Mercifully, the "student letters" are short, and don't really detract from the book, but I'd ask Lee, "Why bother?"Nevertheless, this may be my favorite novel by Lee Smith
litelady4ajh reviewed this
Rated 2/5
If you like historical fiction, this is a great book for you! Love the time & setting (post-Civil War, N.C.) Great heroine, terrific story. Love that it was written in diary form; letters; court records, etc., from many different perspectives. It really deserves 4.5 stars!

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