The Melody of the Mulberries - Book Review


The Melody of the Mulberries

Author: Tonya Jewel Blessing
Genre: Christian - Fiction
Publisher: Capture Books
Date Published: July 24, 2019
ISBN-10: 1951084004
ISBN-13: 9781951084004


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Book Review of :  The Melody of the Mulberries


The Melody of the Mulberries, by Tonya Jewel Blessing, is a strange and powerful tour through the souls of human decency and humanity staged during the 1920s in a very destitute part of the country. It is written in a style reminiscent of Caldwell's Tobacco Road, minus the salacious element. The novel continues the story of the Ashby family in the Appalachian holler during the 1920s. The author's first book, The Whispering of the Willowssets the scene by introducing characters that are presented in this sequel in such a way that allows this novel to read as a stand-alone.

Coral Ashby, her older brother, Ernest, other family members, and friends from this community, are challenged with struggles, both spiritual and ethical. However, they approach life's trials with faith, hope, and love, even as their lives are constrained by poverty,  superstition, and folklore.

Sixteen-year-old  Coral Ashby is convinced that the Lord has called on her to bring salvation to a man named Charlie, who's in prison for kidnapping and murder of her kinfolk. To fulfill her destiny, she travels from her rural mountain village of Big Creek to Charleston, West Virginia, where Charlie is incarcerated. To help her cause, she has enlisted Pastor Rex and her best friend, Charlotte, to accompany her on the trip to the prison in Charleston, West Virginia.

Once in the city, Coral is confronted by the noise of street vendors, mule cart drivers, and the confusion of large groups of noisy people, some accompanied by obnoxious smells. She pines for the quiet peace of the mountains, its forest breezes, the songs of its birds, and the sounds of its falling waters.  Surprisingly, sheer tenacity enables her to adjust to the tribulations of the city. As chaos follows her, it leads to maturity.

Her prison visit with Charlie, finally happens. With the best of intentions, Coral struggles with the task of offering forgiveness and to lead him to the Lord. Blessing explores the question, can you forgive someone who has done such harm?

Back in Big Creek, Coral's brother Ernest has come to realize he is very attracted to Charlotte, his older brother's widow. That situation is complicated because an old flame, Mercy, a beautiful girl of another race, comes back into his life. Racial issues become an additional issue addressed. Interracial relationships were illegal in the 1920s, but the community of Big Creek turns a blind eye on the practice. But the situation is even more complicated because Ernest's old flame is pregnant, and having a baby out of wedlock is harshly treated.

Blessing adds a bit of mysticism and quackery of the mountain people into her novel. In fact, Mercy resorts to a demonic game of conjuring up an evil spirit.  She also enlists the aid of a Granny-witch who knows spells and magic potions. The folklore, superstitions, morals, and customs of the hill people are skillfully woven into the plot.

The author's personal knowledge of the Appalachians, folk beliefs, folksongs, and gospel songs greatly enhances the authenticity of the setting and enables the reader to connect with the hardships and the characters' way of thinking.  It's a great story of the struggles of poor white families in rural West Virginia in the 1920s that had me hooked from page one.

 The Melody of the Mulberries is a very compelling book! The power of forgiveness, at times, can transcend understanding and also change lives. It is highly readable while retaining the colorful slang of the times. It is a  Christian fiction romance that is inspirational as well as a lovely story of redemptions, relationships, and cultural sensitivities.

Reviewed by: Carole W

Latest Author Interview


Authors Reading Interviews Tonya Jewel Blessing about her interesting life and latest book "Melody in the Mulberries". The book is set in the 1920's - This Appalachian Big Creek sequel is set in West Virginia, during the 1920s, where granny witches and spiritualism often show the path for wanderers to take, especially in matters of the heart. Emerald Ashby's younger sister, Coral, determines to visit the family's nemesis, Charlie, now stewing in prison.

About Tonya Jewel Blessing

Growing up Tonya Jewel Blessing spent numerous vacations and holidays in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. Most of her adult life has been spent in full-time ministry with a focus on helping women. She has traveled nationally and internationally as a conference speaker. For a number of years, Tonya and her husband operated a retreat facility in Colorado for pastors and missionaries. She and her husband currently live in South Africa. They are the founders and directors of Strong Cross Ministries, a non-profit organization that assists local churches in providing humanitarian relief and spiritual reconciliation. She is currently pursuing a degree in pastoral ministries.


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