“The Power of Place Beyond AppalachA’ville: The Fiction of Karen Spears Zacharias and a Roadmap for Perseverance and Preservation in a Changing World”

“Some of life’s greatest treasures are born of great sorrow,” asserts Maizee, mother of Rain, in Karen Spears Zacharias’s book Mother of Rain, a Weatherford Award winner and the 2018 West Virginia State Common Read. Later, in the second book of Zacharias’s Appalachian trilogy, Burdy, the Melungeon character whose name is also the title of the book, repeats this thought in a slightly different tone and under a different set of related circumstances. Burdy says of the inevitable tragedies and pressures of life, “Put your head down and keep walking. Keep breathing. Learn to accept the drenching for what it is and try to find some beauty in it” (64). Zacharias’ Christian Bend trilogy (Mother of Rain, Burdy, and Christian Bend) explores a group of characters who live with and understand the power of place as well as the strains that a larger world exerts upon the smaller places of our lives. This paper will explore the roadmap for perseverance and preservation that Zacharias finds in a world fraught with danger, both from within and without. The Christian Bend novels traverse a time when the collateral damage of circumstances beyond the control of good country people hurl them into life adjustments and accommodations that sometimes appear to overwhelm and even devastate; but at the same time, they represent the changing face of a region that is evolving with grace under pressure and what sometimes feels like the rapidity of the speed of light.