By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times
Author Karen Spears Zacharias writes with a Southern accent that is a part of her heritage. Growing up in Tennessee, Zacharias was a true child of the South. However, she now spends most of her time on the road touring with her books, and the little free time she has at home in Oregon. She teaches at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, and is also a former writer in residence at the University of South Alabama.
A prolific writer, “Mother of Rain” is her sixth book. Most of her other books were works of non-fiction. This book is fiction based on her own background in rural Tennessee. Because her work reflects the voices of Appalachia, it is written as it was, and still is, spoken. Many phrases and pronunciations are phonetically correct, giving her characters dimension and personality that fit their geographical location, as well as the time period in which “Mother Of Rain” is set.
In fact, the inscription on the headstone of Zacharias’ favorite aunt, Cil, upon who the main character is based, reads, “Words Rise Up Out of the Country”, which is so true in Zacharias’ case. Her words seem to bubble up out of the well of her life experiences.
Previous books include “Benched: The Memoirs of Judge Rufe McCombs”, ‘”After The Flag has Been Folded”, “Where’s Your Jesus Now?”, “Will Jesus Buy Me A Doublewide?” and “A Silence of Mockingbirds: Memoir of a Murder”.
“After the Flag has Been Folded” is a chronicle of Zacharias’ journey to find the place where her father was killed in Vietnam. This soul-mending trip gave her much insight into what happens to the victims of war and their families, long after the flag is folded and gathering dust on a closet shelf. The pain of her loss was shared with many other children of those brave young soldiers who gave their lives for a war that some people would rather forget.
Both books referring to Jesus might lead you to think that they are comedies, but the truth is, they were written from Zacharias’ travels among people from all walks of life, searching for what Jesus and religion mean to various sections of the population. “Will Jesus Buy Me A Doublewide?” became the title after a homeless woman asked Karen that question.
“Mother of Rain” might seem like a departure from her normal genre, but there is much truth woven into this fictional account of life in a small hamlet in the secluded hills of East Tennessee. Zacharias brings those of us who grew up in the South back to our roots, to granny-ladies and faith healers and old maid aunts who baked cookies, dispensed advice, and cured everything from snake bites to high fevers with stump water and mustard poultices in all rural communities back in the “olden days”.
The time frame moves us through the devastation of World War II and the tribulations of the mind, as Maizee hears voices from the past which haunt her increasingly as she grows older. Rain, her son, weaves another thread through the rich blend of this intricately Southern work of art which Karen has painted in the vernacular from which it originates.
Karen Spears Zacharias is a gifted storyteller. Her books are filled with all the history, tragedy, mystery and triumphs of the Southern experience. Even people outside the region will be drawn into the complex web of intrigue and emotions that she brings to life in this book.
Look for Karen and fellow author, Ann Hite, at Berkeley Bob’s Coffee House at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18. The authors will talk about their books, recreate small vignettes from their work and will be available for a question-and-answer session afterward. There will also be a chance to register for two tickets to Dollywood, which includes an overnight stay in Pigeon Forge, to be given away at the end of the tour. You will fall in love with the South all over again after seeing and hearing these two multi-talented ladies in their element.
Visit Karen on Facebook, or at her blog, Pathos.com.