Cover To Cover is the anchor program for GPB’s literary coverage. Cover To Cover features a collection of distinctive Southern voices interviewing Georgia writers, Southern writers, and writers dealing with the South. The GPB Southern Lit Cadre will provide you with a varied, weekly glimpse at fiction, non-fiction, history, poetry, and even the occasional ‘old school’ nod to Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Mother-Daughter Road Trip

I first met Amanda Gable many years ago as a customer in my book store. She was, in the heyday of the used and out-of-print book business, the kind of customer that embodied the spirit of the whole enterprise. She couldn't ever satisfy her desire for more books. She bought a lot of books, sold a lot of books, traded a lot of books, and often came in to simply browse at books. She was, in the sense that I learned the phrase, a true "book person."

What I didn't know was that she was also a person who could create a fantastic book. All those books she'd been reading, much of them about the Civil War, helped her create one of the most precocious young fictional characters I've read in years, the heroine of Gable's debut novel, The Confederate General Rides North: 11-year-old Katherine "Kat" McConnell.

Growing up in Marietta, with a loving but very dysfunctional family, young Kat becomes a walking encyclopedia of Civil War history, like many kids her age are about baseball statistics or dinosaurs. When Kat's sensitive, artistic and unhappy mother decides to drive back to her native north for a fresh start, the two of them make an unforgettable duo on an emotionally moving road trip.

With her mother at the wheel, buying up antiques the whole way in hopes of opening her own business, Kat becomes the journey's navigator and ensures that they hit every Civil War battlefield and memorial along the route, and in Kat's mind, she is the commanding general at every stop.

The girl's imaginings combined with the mother's adult concerns combine for a bittersweet psychological family portrait that is completely convincing.

Gable's quiet, unassuming manner--the personality that allowed me to know her for years without imagining what a creative imagination she has--comes through in her Cover to Cover interview. But so does her seriousness of purpose and dedication as a writer and her desire to present her characters in the most realistic and sympathetic light possible.

In a year when so many debuts by Atlanta authors have been published, none that I have read is a more satisfying piece of fiction than Amanda Gable's The Confederate General Rides North.

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