Courageous tale of an Appalachian woman during the Depression Era

Prayers the Devil Answers: A Novel (Ballad) - Sharyn McCrumb

Ellendor Robbins is a wife and mother in the Appalachian Mountains in 1936. When her husband unexpectedly dies, she’s faced with raising her two young sons alone.  She must decide whether to return to her brother-in-law’s home as a charity relative or try to take on her husband’s job, which was sheriff of their town.   Ellie is a courageous, independent woman and since the job is mostly paperwork and she’ll have capable deputies to work with, the town officials decide to give her a chance.  Unfortunately, they have forgotten one of the duties of the sheriff – to conduct executions of condemned men.


What I love most about Ms. McCrumb’s books are the Appalachian superstitions, folklore and traditions that run through her stories. They create such a unique atmosphere that I’ve only found in this author’s books.  However, this story only refers to one tradition, the Dumb Supper.  The book starts off with a scene of six young women going through the enactment of a Dumb Supper where they supposedly will learn who they will one day marry.  There are ancient rules that must be strictly followed for this magical event to go right and if not, well, there will be consequences.  However, I never felt any connection with the beginning of the story to the supposed consequence.  Plus the book is very slow moving which usually is not a negative to me; however, I did feel that parts of the book were repetitive.


All that being said, I still enjoyed the book very much. Sharyn McCrumb has such a way with words and while the atmosphere created wasn’t quite what I usually expect in one of her books, it still placed me right into the time period and location of those gorgeous mountains and its people.  The book is said to be based on a true story.  Elllie Robbins will work her way into your heart with her courage and determination.  Ms. McCrumb is a wonderful storyteller and her characters will long be remembered.


This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.