Book: Every Hill and Mountain (Time and Again) by Deborah Healcategories: Book, Time Travel, Mystery, Historical, Young Adult, Slavery, Underground Rail Road, Christian Fantasy
Deborah Healabout this book: My Personal Connection to Every Hill and Mountain: A Tribute to My Roots
My characters Abby and her friends in Every Hill and Mountain are from the northern part of Illinois, and when their search for clues takes them to southernmost part of the state, they feel like they've arrived in a foreign country to be explored with interest. (Or in Ryan's case, with disdain.) In a way Abby's right. Just as there remains a great divide between the North and South in general, so there is between northern and southern Illinois. If you don't believe me, read Herbert K. Russell's book, The State of Southern Illinois.
The region is nicknamed Egypt or Little Egypt from the time in the 1830s when a drought up north forced people to go "down to Eqypt" for grain just as Abraham's family did in the Bible. Southern Illinoisans must have loved seeing their northern neighbors as humble supplicants. Just as the bankers at Shawneetown Bank must have loved turning down a request for financing from an emerging little town up north called Chicago. The bankers said the town would never amount to anything since it didn't have access to a good river. I must have heard that story a dozen times when I was growing up. There's no word on how the bankers felt when news of the new canal connecting Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River reached them.
Abby, John, Kate, and Ryan arrive in Equality, Illinois during its annual salt festival and have lunch at the Red Onion Restaurant. I enjoyed a very tasty hamburger there myself when I visited last summer while researching for the book. (My dad would have described the burger as larrapin' good, I'm sure.) The restaurant's truly there , but salt festivals are a thing of the past. And Anderson's is no longer a general store there on Lane Street. I'm not sure if The Baptist Hour, sponsored by Otis Carter Hatchery in Eldorado, is still broadcast over WEBQ radio. But I included these and other details to make the setting a combination of things past and present—things I recall from my childhood and things from my parents' day.
My dad's family lived in The Hills outside Equality. (It sounds capitalized when locals refer to them.) As far as I know, there's no local bluegrass band called Eagle Creek as there is in Every Hill and Mountain, but there ought to be. And if there had been in the 1940s I'm sure my dad would have been a member of it. And Grandpa Woods? Well, he really did make moonshine out behind the house just as Patty Ann's had in the story.
My dad graduated from Equality High School, but before that he went to Hickory Hill School out in the hills. And nearby on Hickory Hill was The Old Slave House, just a stone's throw from where Grandpa Woods' farm was--until the coal company leveled it. (You can read about the effects of coal mining in the area in Jeff Bigger's book Reckoning at Eagle Creek.) In their later years, Grandpa and Grandma moved to town where he built a little house covered in gray asphalt shingles, the one I fondly remember visiting when I was young.
Growing up, I heard whispered stories about Hickory Hill. It wasn't until I was grown that I learned what went on there on the third floor of The Old Slave House. I learned even more details when I read Jon Musgrave's Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw while researching for Every Hill and Mountain. Like Abby, I was shocked to find out that… well you'll just have to read the book to find out.
The Disclaimer in the front of the book says this:
This is a work of fiction. Any references to real people, events, institutions, or locales are intended solely to give a sense of authenticity. While every effort was made to be historically accurate, it should be remembered that these references are used fictionally.
Yada, yada, yada.
Oh, the disclaimer is accurate. But on the other hand, I hope this story rings true to the region and the people--my people. And so as a tribute to them, I dedicate Every Hill and Mountain to my dad Earl Woods, who grew up in the hills of Eagle Creek just outside Equality, Illinois.
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Other books by Deborah Heal
• Book Review: Time and Again by Deborah Heal|
• Book Review: Unclaimed Legacy by Deborah Heal|
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