Kentucky packhorse librarian Tansy Calhoun doesn’t mind the rough trails and long hours as she serves her Appalachian mountain community during the Great Depression. Yet she longs to find love like the heroines in her books. When a charming writer comes to town, she thinks she might have found it–or is the perfect man actually closer than she thinks?
Perdita Sweet has called these mountains home for so long she’s nearly as rocky as the soil around her small cabin. Long ago she thought she could love, but when the object of her affection up and married someone else, she stopped giving too much of herself away to others.
As is so often the case, it’s easier to see what’s best for others than to see what’s best for oneself, and Perdita knows who Tansy should choose. But why would anyone listen to the romantic advice of an old spinster?
Saddle up for a heartfelt story of love–love of family, love of place, and the love of a lifetime–from bestselling author Ann H. Gabhart.
‘The way the Lord can bring blessings at hard times can confound a body for certain.’
The time is the Great Depression, the setting is Appalachia, and the story is full and rich. Tansy Calhoun is a WPA packhorse librarian (this was a real program) and she thoroughly enjoys bringing the richness of books to those up in the hills and other areas of her county. Folks that are barely surviving at times and they sure do love these books Tansy brings every few weeks. Tansy doesn’t just drop books off; she visits and reads to them, listens to their problems and prays for them. She discovers that everyone has a story to tell, some painful and hard to hear. But she presses on.
I find it amazing that these women were willing to endure so much to bring books to folks in this remote area of Kentucky in such hard times. Being a book lover, this story is particularly interesting to me. I would have loved seeing a book woman ride up on a horse, bringing me a new book to read.
‘Sometimes Tansy thought every prayer she’d ever thought to pray and some she hadn’t thought up had been answered the day she got one of the book routes here in Owsley County.’
Ann Gabhart opens the door up to these people and their lives in Appalachia and we are able to feel what they feel and also experience their hurts. All because of her gift at story telling. She makes them come alive.
Told in her signature style, Gabhart’s cadence rolls sweetly along throughout the book. I found myself invested in their lives as I let myself be carried away with the flow. Such wonderful characters and powerful emotions they had! I was captivated! I can highly recommend this one. And, in my opinion, it’d make a most excellent movie. Well done!
My thanks to Revell Publishing for a copy of this book via Net Galley. I was not expected to leave a positive review. The opinion here is entirely my own.
A Country Girl with a Big Dream by Ann H. Gabhart
Hi, everybody. Susan invited me over to visit, but she said she didn’t want the usual song and dance about writing this or that book, although I do have to mention Along a Storied Trail that had its book birthday on June 1. If you like storytelling, you just might like riding along with my packhorse librarian as she takes books up into the hills.
Okay, that was my book pitch. Now I’m going to tell you a story about a little country girl with a big dream.
I grew up in a white clapboard house built around two log rooms. I was born in one of those rooms more than a few years ago. My father was a farmer and my mother a farmwife. Dad raised corn and tobacco and had beef cows. Mama raised chickens, a garden and three girls. We butchered our own meat. Well, I didn’t. Dad did although I did get in on stirring the lard in the big black kettle over a fire and enjoyed eating cracklings. Mom canned our vegetables and fruits and made jam out of the wild blackberries we picked. Oh, and we sometime had a strawberry patch. My favorite. Nothing better than a strawberry with the kiss of the sun still warming it.
Dad had sheep too and sometimes when one of the ewes had twins she would decide two was one too many. So we would raise the rejected baby on a bottle. Loved those little curly lambs. We never lacked for cats and kittens around the farm to pet. Then, when I was eight or so, I got the dog hunger and one of dad’s friends brought me a pup. I was a happy kid. I don’t think I’ve been without a dog since except after my dear Oscar died of bone cancer in 2017. A couple of dog lonely months went by before I found my wild and wooly Frankie at a humane shelter. A year later, a church friend needed a home for her dog, Marley, and we added him to the family.
Back to the pleasures of growing up on a farm. We had to help with the picking and weeding and whatever else needed doing on the farm, but I also had plenty of time for fun and walking in the woods and reading. I loved to read. Still do. But that loving to read back when I was a kid gave me the wild idea to write a book myself. I wanted to be a Hardy girl (like those Hardy boys) and solve a mystery. No actual mysteries out on our farm, so I wrote my own story in a wire bound notebook. I’ve been writing ever since.
When I started noticing boys, the Lord must have been watching out for me and helped me meet the right guy at the young age of fourteen. I was a teenage bride, and by the time I was nineteen, I was mom of two babies. That will grow a girl up fast. But I never lost my dream to write stories. Between changing diapers and washing those diapers (everybody washed diapers back then) I somehow found time to keep writing. I had some pieces published in church magazines to encourage me. Then, I wrote a novel and never looked back. I loved bringing characters to life that I could live with for months while they shared their stories with me.
Success didn’t come overnight. We bought a farm and built a house. We had another baby. I helped my husband on the farm. He took a job off the farm but money was still tight. We had a huge garden and I filled shelves with canned vegetables and froze some fruits and vegetables too. I wrote my first book while Captain Kangaroo entertained my youngest son and the older two were in school. That book didn’t sell. Nor did the second book I wrote, but the third book, a historical romance, found a home at Warner Books.
I’d like to say it was all smooth sailing after that, but no. I’ve had some rocky valley times with my writing when I couldn’t find any loving editors for the stories I wrote. Along the way, I did some temporary secretarial work to help pay the bills, but after a while, I’d quit so I could have more time for writing.
Fortunately for me, Christian fiction was gaining an audience. Also fortunately for me, the Lord put a story in my heart about a young teen and her preacher father. That book, Scent of Lilacs, did find a loving editor and I’ve been blessed to have published over twenty books in the Christian market. I love including the faith journeys of my characters in my stories. I also like setting those books in Kentucky and finding ways to include my love of nature and sometimes dogs (or cats in my Hidden Springs mysteries) in my stories.
My husband and I have been members of a little country church for over fifty years. We still live out here on the farm where I like to go walking with my dogs and now and again, some of my nine grandkids. I am blessed to have a beautiful wilderness area that has a creek that springs up out of the ground at the base or a tall cliff. The clear creek ripple over rocks down a narrow valley. Beside the creek and on the hillsides, wildflowers abound.
I’m thankful for my phone camera that lets me snap pictures to my heart’s content without the first worry about the cost of film. I enjoy sharing my pictures of flowers, the creek, and my dogs. I’ve also been known to take a grandkid picture now and again. I like to post my pictures on my Facebook author’s page, Instagram and on my blog to liven up the posts. Sometimes that picture might be a beautiful wildflower. Other times it could be dew on a spider web or frost on a dandelion puff. But I think my cow and snake pictures can get the most response.
Frankie and Marley keep me moving by demanding we go walking every day. Frankie has a clock in his dog head and when it’s our usual walking time, he comes in my office and pushes his ninety pound body between me and the keyboard. He doesn’t crawl all the way up in my lap. He’s too big for that, but half of him is heavy enough. He has a way of convincing me that a walk will give me time to think up some new plot points. Marley is much more patient, but where Frankie is, he wants to be too.
My husband is retired from farming now, and we lease the farm to a young man who has a herd of cattle. That lets me enjoy seeing the new calves in the spring, and the dogs get to bark at the cows that give them a look that says “not them again.” We gave over most of the garden spot to our son who has a growing family, but we do keep a few rows for ourselves. I don’t put up (can or freeze) as much as I used to. I can green beans, make a little blackberry jam, freeze some tomatoes and zucchini while enjoying fresh produce out of the garden during the summer.
I’m still a country girl who sometimes can’t believe my big dream to write books came true. But I am so very glad it did. I smile every time someone says they’ve read one of my stories. I’m happy when reader friends say they enjoy my newsletter or that they like digitally sharing my Sunday morning walks on Facebook or hearing about what Frankie and Marley are up to.
Sometimes the Lord gives a person the desires of her heart. I’m blessed to be one of those people.
Thank you, Susan, for inviting me over and letting me chat about that little girl with a big dream.
26 thoughts on “Review, Author Spotlight and Giveaway: ‘Along A Storied Trail’ by Ann H. Gabhart”
What a great review and interview! I read ARC of this book and loved it! I would love to win a print copy for my home library!
Loved learning more about your journey, Ann. Going to head over to FB and check out the pictures 🙂
tpomerene (at) gmail (dot) com
A wonderful historical set during my favorite era which involves my most favorite thing, librarian and books. I enjoyed learning about Ann and the photos are beautiful and captivating. Thanks for your beautiful giveaway.
I love everything about your writing and I enjoy hearing about your background and interests. I am thankful for Christian based books, especially yours. May the Lord continue to richly bless you!
I love Ann, she is my favorite author .I so loved to read this that she wrote.
Super interview!! I am reading These Healing HIlls at this moment. I love your writing style! bcrug(at)twc(dot)com
So glad you’re already riding up into those hills only with a nurse midwife instead of a book woman. I’ve enjoyed setting stories in the Eastern Kentucky Appalachian area. Hope you’ll give more of my books a try.
Sounds like a great story!
smincer10 (at) gmail (dot)com
Carolyn, I’m so glad you liked the story when you read the Advanced Reader Copy. I consider it a nice compliment that you’d like to win a copy for your bookshelf. Thanks for that.
Toni, thanks for dropping by Susan’s to find out more about my writing journey and all. I hope you found some photos you liked. I’ve been known to take some photos of unusual things. Turtles, spiderwebs, the occasional snake, flowers and whatever catches my eye on my walks.
Anne, I’m with you on those favorite things, books and stories. Glad you think Along a Storied Trail is a book you might like.
Amy, so fun that you popped over here to read more about this ol’ country girl. Like you, I’m thankful for books that tell a good story and are ones I can recommend to my grandkids.
Lisa, you are so kind. I’m glad you liked finding out about my country life.
Love Ann’s books.
I love Ann Gabhart books and this review and more information about Ann herself was lovely to read. Ann – I really enjoy your pictures and your stories. I don’t qualify for the drawing as I live outside of the US but wanted to comment anyway.
Hi, Fiona. So good that you took time to respond. I’m sorry about the USA only rule, but postage is crazy high out of the states. But I very much appreciate you reading my books and I’m glad you enjoyed learning more about this country girl.
Oh, I can’t wait to read about Tansy! I love reading about Appalachia and packhorse librarians.
eclitton at gmail dot com
You won the book, Elizabeth! I just sent you an email. I need your physical address. You have 24 hours to respond before another winner is chosen.
I am looking forward to reading this new book of Ann’s. Love the topic!
onorman at wilkes dot net
I love reading Ann’s books. She tells her stories in such a way, you just feel like you’re right there in the story yourself.
She does indeed!
I am so glad that God gives stories to writers to write because I love stories that uplift and bring God into people’s lives with a good story line. Ann definitely has been given a gift of writing and I am so glad that she puts it to good use!!
This is a subject I didn’t know much about until a year or so ago. These women had to be brave to do this job.
Susanne, I’m so glad you think Along a Storied Trail is a book you might enjoy. I hope you do when you get a chance to read the story.
Janice, I so appreciate you reading my books. Glad you took time to read all about a country girl and a writing dream.
Elizabeth, if you love the Appalachian background and packhorse librarians, then this is a book for you. I have enjoyed the mountain characters who have come to life for me in my stories. And of course a book about storytelling and books was one I could really get into.
Ola, I’m so glad you came over to Susan’s blog to read more about me and Along a Storied Trail. I do hope you’ll like the story when you get to read it.
Connie Lee, thank you for your kind words about my writing. I appreciate that so much from someone like you who knows books.
Thanks so much for sharing this book with us, Susan and Ann for the wonderful giveaway chance. I would love to win a copy of this book I have heard so much about!
bettimace at gmail dot com
I have read several of Ann’s books and am never disappointed. I thoroughly enjoy reading her posts and enjoy her Sunday morning walks. Ann has a unique and gifted talent. Thankful to have found her and look forward to reading more of her works.
I enjoy the wonderful writing of Ann H.Gabhart. She has a marvelous style and flow of her own that draws the reader in, invites you to sit, get comfortable, settle in and enjoy the reading journey.
I always look forward to where ever her books take me, she is vividly
descriptive in allowing us to ‘see’, almost smell what she is describing.
I felt as if I was in a terrible windy storm as raging & Building itnto in a worse one, trying to escape it, but hanging on for dear life. So many details
put me right in the center of this with a child character. You remember her
writing. You can’t wait for more.
CONGRATULATIONS Ann on your new book!
Thank you so much for your nice comments, Thread and Stitches. I do appreciate what you said. I love that about my stories inviting the reader to come on in and sit down to enjoy reading. I put “Come home to story” on my website as a kind of tag line for me. So what you said fits right in. I always wish I could invite everybody over for a cup of tea (or I’d even make coffee) and some book talk. I’m not sure which story you’re talking about, but it sounds like Scent of Lilacs in that windstorm. I tend to like to end my stories with some natural disastrous storm, fire, flood or sometimes a human made disastrous happening like in Words Spoken True or those books with war in the historical settings. Again, thank you for going along some of those story trails with my characters.
Connie Rogers, I too love stories that uplift and inspire. I so appreciate you thinking some of my own stories succeed in that way. I do feel as though every story I’m given is a blessing and I love it when the spiritual thread of the story comes naturally as part of the character’s actions and thoughts.
Vivian, you are so right that those book women were tough and courageous. Of course, to them the hills were home to them. They may have known the trails. Then again, some of them might have never ventured away from their homes and families until they were thrust into this new challenge by the need to feed those families during the Great Depression.
Betti, good luck in the drawing. I so appreciate you thinking Along a Storied Trail is a book you’d like to read.
Susan, what kind words. Thank you so much. You have me smiling on this rainy morning here in my corner of the world. I’m always pleased when I hear somebody say they are “going along” on my Sunday morning walks. Sometimes there are a whole crowd trailing along with the dogs and me – at least virtually. 🙂 Thank you so much for reading my books and my posts.
Congratulations on your new book, Ann! Always enjoy your books and look forward to reading this one. Thanks for bringing us such great stories.