December 27, 2019

#BookReview: The Winter Sisters by Tim Westover

Synopsis: Folklore, medicine, witches, and superstition in the Georgia mountains. Dr. Waycross knows bleeding and blistering, the best scientific medicine of 1822. He arrives in the Georgia mountains to bring his modern methods to the superstitious masses. But the local healers, the Winter sisters, claim to treat yellow fever, consumption, and the hell-roarin' trots just as well as he can. Some folks call the sisters herb women; some call them witches. Waycross calls them quacks. But when the threat of rabies—incurable and fatal—comes to town, Dr. Waycross and the Winter sisters must combine their science and superstition in a desperate search for a remedy. Can they find a miracle cure, or has the age of miracles passed? 


Rating: ★
My Review: Unfortunately, this one just did not mesh well with me.  I found myself actually falling asleep when trying to read this one.  I loved the premise and the cover but for the actual story it just did not engage me at all. 

I’m Tim Westover, (1982 - ?). I’m not a native Southerner – no accent, no family roots here. I’m Southern now through exposure and exploration and no small amount of good luck.

I was born in Rhode Island, and my family moved to Tennessee and then to London, England. We moved to Georgia when I was in high school. I graduated from Central Gwinnett High School in Lawrenceville, GA, and then went to Davidson College in North Carolina and the University of Georgia. I traveled for volunteer work and language studies, going to Russia, Iceland, Germany, Croatia, Cuba, and all over the United States.

But after all that, I came back to Lawrenceville. Today, it’s an Atlanta suburb, filled with chain restaurants and Interstate traffic. Right in the middle, there’s a pretty square with an old brick courthouse. Going on walks during my lunch break, I’d read the historic signs, and I learned that under the pavement, there’s a lot of history and tall tales. The present courthouse is actually the third one on the site: the first one burned in 1871, and the second one was so poorly constructed they tore it down in 1884. Lawrenceville used to be on the frontier of Cherokee territory; important trials and debates in the tragedy of the Trail of Tears happened here. There’s gold in the river and, tucked between subdivisions, there’s a line of mounds that might be in the shape of a giant serpent. Citizens protested puddles on the dirt roads by casting their fishing lines into them. Oak trees cast their shade on crumbling stone horse troughs. Men and women swapped horses and gossip and listened to the patent medicine sellers on Honest Alley. Mrs. Maltbie took her whacking cane and smashed up the saloon that sold her son one too many drinks.

Back in the day, Lawrenceville built a low black fence around its square because they’d leave the doors open on hot days, and pigs would wander into the courtroom and cause a ruckus. There’s a legend that anyone who sits and takes a rest on that fence will never leave Lawrenceville. I decided to sit down. 

I learned how to make biscuits – we didn’t have a family recipe, so I had to start one. I’ve shoveled dead possums off my driveway. I taught myself to play the clawhammer banjo. I’ve met the mule that turns the wheel that grinds my favorite brand of grits (Red Mule Grits, the mule’s name is Luke). I say “y’all” unironically. 

On the weekends, I drive to other little Georgia towns. Each one has a history just as rich as Lawrenceville’s. Some only exist as historic markers now, or as ghosts. A pile of stones in a traffic median north of Dahlonega is the grave of an Indian princess, Trahlyta, who drank from a fountain of youth but died when she was captured by rival warrior and carried away from her land. Outside of Winder was a boiling lake of mud that was known as “Cherokee Hell” until it exploded one day in the 1800s. A giant invincible turtle lived in the caves in the mountains; settlers knew they couldn’t kill it, but they kept throwing rocks and stones until it retreated in annoyance to depths unknown.

I tell people that I don’t make up anything that I write. Generations before me have already found the best stories. I collect what I can from old folks, young folks, museums, signs, pamphlets, and old newspaper articles. And I tie them up with a little narrative to save as many of the old stories as I can.

I’ve worked for a small medical software company in Lawrenceville for over twenty years. I live in Grayson, GA. From our back porch, we can look down to Big Haynes Creek and a place called Hope Hollow, where the Winter sisters may once have lived. I didn’t make them up. I think they’ve always been here.

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FTC Guidelines: In accordance with FTC guidelines regarding endorsements and testimonials for bloggers, I would like my readers to know that many of the books I review are provided to me for free by the publisher or author of the book in exchange for an honest review. If am compensated for any reviews on this site I will state that post has been sponsored. 


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