Christy

By: Catherine Marshall
1967
Fiction
Rating: 3/5

Christy book cover

I’m not quite sure how to feel about Christy.

Part of me really liked it; part of me wants to roll my eyes at it.

For one, it’s a really compelling story. There’s a lot going on here. A lot of characters to fall in love with, a lot of culture to be appreciated, a lot of adventure to go on.

On the other, there’s a lot of didacticism, a lot of stereotyping, a lot of predictability, a lot of cheap depictions of love.

It seems obvious to me that Christy was written with pretty clear intentions: it’s a religious coming-into-your-own-faith journey in the most locally exotic setting Marshall could find. And make no mistake about it, this book is religious. Shove it down your throat kind of religious.

And the characters are caricatures. There are attempts to make them real, to make them flawed or multidimensional, but with little success. That’s not to say they’re not fun to read, just that they’re fairly unrealistic.

And if you know anything about the local color movement or the history of negative stereotypes in Appalachia, then this book is a bit hard to swallow. It does everything it can to promote the idea of Appalachians as “other,” as a people to be civilized and Christianized.

But it is, at its heart, an adventure story as well. It celebrates new adventures, meeting new people, learning new things. And for that, I really enjoyed it. And it’s supposedly at least partway true; according to Marshall, it’s based on the real-life experiences of her mother.

It could be useful as a religious text, as a study of Appalachian stereotyping, or as a coming-of-age story. But don’t take it as seriously as it takes itself, and you should enjoy it. I did.

 

*****

If you liked Christy, check out these books:

Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina

Wish You Well by David Baldacci

The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow

 

Coming up:

Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas

Meridian by Alice Walker

Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina

Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr.

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