The Coal Tattoo

Silas House writes the way some folks drew or paint, with a clarity of images that spark emotion and imagination.  His books also call me back to the sultry long days and the moonlighted sky above the mountains of Kentucky, driving behind a lumbering truck filled with black soot, lumps of coal, one after another tumbling  onto the narrow road that took me somewhere or nowhere at all.

All these years later, nearly 20 to be precise, and a lost inventory of journals, I can't recall the name of the towns, or the road map, but I can remember the feelings that were stirred in me as I stepped into a back road store and encountered Kentucky folks sipping pop, and making sounds that resembled a spluttered greeting to my so obvious strangeness.  Later that same week I came into more direct contact with similar folk outside Chattanooga (Tennessee) where I spent a warm day admiring and then buying two hand woven baskets from a roadside vendor.   I stayed a long time, chatting, drinking coffee, then water, as the man sliced the reeds and wrapped them snugly into shape.  One of the baskets was meant for laundry and it served me well until one day it splintered from the weight of wet towels.  The other basket is with me still, a market basket, long, firm, with a fixed but flexible handle that sits comfortably on your wrist.  The man who made these baskets could be Paul, Clay's uncle, the character who makes Clay's quilt.

Basket at etsy

The Coal Tattoo is the third in a trilogy, and the second book of Mr. House's I've read this holiday.   His first book, Clay's Quilt, came into my reading hands several years ago, but stuck with me as if I had sat on nettles.  The middle book, A Parchment of Leaves moves back in time just as the Coal Tattoo brings the story full circle revealing relationships in the two succeeding books.

Clay captured me, Vine soothes and then shocks, Serena grows on you, and then you meet Easter as a young woman, and Clay's Momma, Anneth, as a wild teenager.

A most terrific trilogy and one I left in Pittsburgh for my daughter to read.

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