By Ian Acheson - @achesonian
Lochiel Ogle was born with a red-wine birthmark--and it put her life in jeopardy from the moment she entered the world. Mountain folks called it "the mark of the devil," and for all the evil that has plagued her nineteen-year existence, Lochiel is ready to believe that is true. And the evil surely took control of the mind of the boy who stole her as an infant, bringing her home for his mother to raise.
Abused and abandoned by the only people she knows as family, Lochiel is rescued by a peddler and given the first glimpse of love she has ever known. The truth of her past is gradually revealed as is the fact that she is still-hunted by a brother driven to see her dead. Unsure if there's anyone she can truly trust, Lochiel is faced with a series of choices: Will she continue to run for escape or will she face her past and accept the heartbreaking secrets it reveals? Which will truly free her?
Set in the wild and beautiful Appalachian Mountains of nineteenth-century East Tennessee, Liar's Winter is an unflinching yet inspirational exploration of prejudice and choice.
Wow. What a story. This is frankly one of the best stories I’ve read in recent times. Certainly in 2018. It is simply breathtaking, as other reviews have mentioned.
There’s a whole sub-genre of stories based around the Appalachian Mountains in America. Having a writer friend who is a local Appalachian I’ve found it an intriguing sub-genre.
Lochiel (‘low-kill’) Ogle was born with a birthmark that disfigured one side of her face all the way down her neck and shoulder. In the late nineteenth century such disfigurement was considered the work of the Devil. Lochiel, as a baby, is taken from her sleeping mother’s arms and ‘adopted’ by another family. Besides having this birthmark she is also part Cherokee Indian that adds to the complexity of her background.
We meet Lochiel at 19 with frequent backstory inserts by her brother, Gerald, plus her own reflections. When we meet her she has been left for dead having been bashed by Gerald. He dumps her in the forest only for her to be found by a wandering trader who goes by the name of Walt. Walt rescues her but we’re soon involved in a chase when Gerald finds out she is still alive. Driven by hatred, Gerard wants her dead.
The themes of racism, superstitions, sibling rivalry, not fitting in, abandonment, and familial love are powerfully woven through this story. Love, forgiveness, and God’s truth are contrasted against the hatred and bitterness born out differences between cultures and race.
We see the transformation of a young girl from being fearful, untrusting non-believing to a loving, God-fearing secure in God’s love young woman.
The descriptions of the Appalachian Mountains are spectacular as we follow Lochiel and Walt in a journey that transcends the beauty of nature but also the wonder of familial love and faith.
It is edge-of-the-seats suspenseful and spoken in the first person mostly by Lochiel we get to experience her native tongue (which I love) and all the variety of emotions she experiences on this journey of discovery and redemption.