Vashti Lee Daniels was born in the late 1800s into a close knit family comprised of several generations, including a great-grandmother who had a strong influence on young Vashti. That influence helped define the young woman, who was fifteen at the beginning of the story, and who had renamed herself “Bessie” quite early on in her life. I could definitely relate to renaming oneself, as I had done the same.
As the eldest child in the family, much of the housekeeping and child minding fell to her. But her close bond with her Papa, the town constable, who seemingly admired the gumption that set her apart from the others, helped nurture the side of her that would flourish as the years passed.
Whistling Woman (Appalachian Journey) is a nonfiction story based on the great-aunt of the authors, and the setting of Hot Springs, North Carolina, in the Appalachian Mountains, was researched thoroughly by them. Additionally, both heard many of the tales about Great Aunt Bessie from their father, whose storytelling abilities were certainly passed down to his daughters.
I was enchanted by the idea of a “whistling woman,” and early in the tale, the reader discovers the meaning of the term and will find it quite apt in describing the independent-thinking Bessie. Narrated in Bessie’s first person voice, the reader soon connects completely with her thoughts, feelings, wishes and dreams.
What astounding event early in the story sets the tone and spotlights the personalities of the characters? How does the event seem to herald sad happenings that will unfold throughout that year? And what unexpected occurrence will drive a wedge between Bessie and her father?
I loved the language that seemingly transported me to that time and place. I recognized certain phrases and sayings that my own paternal grandparents used quite frequently, and, as a result, felt even more connected to the characters. I wanted to know a lot more of Bessie’s story, so I’m hoping for a sequel. Five stars.