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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

(Guest Post) Life in Appalachia: Then vs Now by Michelle Shocklee | Author of Appalachian Song

This post may contain “affiliate links.” This means if you click on a link with my affiliate code and purchase an item(s), I will receive an affiliate commission. You won't be charged extra, I'll just receive a small percentage of the purchase price. See my disclosure page here.

I'm excited to share this guest post by Michelle Shocklee, author of Appalachian Song. Hope you enjoy!

Life in Appalachia: Then vs Now 
By Michelle Shocklee

The Appalachian Mountains stretch from Canada to Georgia, covering 14 states, and the people of Appalachia are as unique as the mountains themselves. Because there are different regions throughout the Appalachians, sometimes within the same state, residents have their own customs, lifestyles, and even their own way to pronounce the name of their beloved mountain range. 

I first laid eyes on the Great Smoky Mountains of Appalachia in the fall of 2018. As a Rocky Mountain girl, born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we planned a trip to Gatlinburg after moving to Tennessee the previous year. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than a rugged mountain covered in the autumn gold of turning aspen trees. The Smokies, I found, are very different from the craggy, snow-topped Rockies, so I was a little surprised at how quickly I fell in love with them. Rolling layers of breathtaking beauty is the simplest way to describe them. 

The name Smoky Mountains is a little deceiving. The “smoke” is actually a mist, or fog, caused by dense vegetation emitting chemicals into the atmosphere. These chemicals form vapors at normal temperatures, which is why the mountains look smoky year round. Native Americans called the region home for generations before European settlers arrived in the mid-eighteenth century. 

By the 1800s, this part of Appalachia—pronounced “apple-at-cha”—was home to thousands of pioneering families like the Walkers, who inspired the fictional Jenkins family in my new book Appalachian Song. The Walkers were proud mountain people, living by “ax, gun, and plow.” During the Civil War, John Walker fought for the Union Army, as did most East Tennesseans, and was even captured and held prisoner. After the war ended, John married his sweetheart, Margaret Jane King, whose family came from Little Greenbrier, an area near present-day Gatlinburg. He purchased property from Margaret's father, including a single-room cabin, the original section built in the 1840s. Margaret gave birth to eleven children—seven girls and four boys—and all eleven survived into adulthood, a feat not many mountain families could boast back in those days. Poverty and lack of education were two of the biggest issues mountain people faced then and continue to deal with now. But many families, like the Walkers, did their best to overcome them. 

Like most mountain people, the Walkers did without modern conveniences, such as electricity, indoor plumbing, and heavy farm equipment. They grew corn, raised sheep, cattle, chickens, and hogs, had a vast orchard, and tended a huge garden, canning produce that added to their simple diet throughout the year. They sheared sheep, carded, and spun the wool, turning it into clothing for the entire family. They even made their own shoes. One of the Walker sisters is famously quoted as saying, “Our land produces everything we need except sugar, soda, coffee, and salt.” Trips into town were few and far between. 

Margaret Walker’s mother was a midwife, and she trained her daughter in midwifery. Bertie Jenkins, one of the main characters in Appalachian Song, is also a midwife. Midwives were a vital part of every mountain community. Not only did they attend births, but they were also knowledgeable of herbal remedies, able to set bones, and perform dental services. With city doctors and hospitals too far away for most mountain people to travel to—and untrustworthy to many residents—the local midwife was often called upon in an emergency. 

Life in Appalachia remained unchanged for decades. For the Walkers and their mountain neighbors, however, their world was turned upside down when the government decided to create a national park. 

The states of Tennessee and North Carolina were given permission by Congress to purchase nearly a half million acres for the park, most of which was privately owned. Land acquired from families and timber companies alike were bargained and haggled over, with many people forced to sell property that had been in their families for generations. Residents of communities like Cades Cove were threatened with annexation if they didn’t comply, leaving them without legal recourse. Refusing to hand over their 122-acre mountain home, the Walkers held out until 1940. Once the park was officially dedicated, they struck a deal with the government: they would receive $4,750 for their farm, with the stipulation the remaining five sisters could live out their days in their home. Yet because they now resided within the borders of a national park, they were unable to farm, raise livestock, or hunt. The old way of life that had been passed down from their father and from his father before, was gone. 

Today, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in the United States, with over 14 million visitors annually. The weathered, two-room cabin the Walker family lived in until 1966 is one of the few remaining homesteads. The corncrib and springhouse John Walker built in the 1870s are also there, but the forest has forever changed the landscape into a wooded hideaway that more than likely resembles what the Walker ancestors encountered when they first beheld the land.  

As I researched life in Appalachia, I was pleased to learn that many modern-day residents stubbornly (or perhaps, wisely) cling to the old ways. Should you venture off the beaten path, you may discover a home without electricity and indoor plumbing, where people continue to work on the land, much like the Walkers did all those years ago. Poverty and unemployment remain constant problems for some families throughout Appalachia, but faith and family values are as strong as ever in most communities. Although Appalachian Song is not based on the lives of the Walker family, I hope I captured the essence of the fascinating life they lived on their mountain homestead. 

While I’m still a Rocky Mountain girl at heart, I can now hear the Appalachians calling too. 

I think it’s time to answer.

Tyndale House Publishers (October 3, 2023)
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1496472441
About the book:
Forever within the memories of my heart.
Always remember, you are perfectly loved.

Bertie Jenkins has spent forty years serving as a midwife for her community in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Out of all the mothers she’s tended, none affects her more than the young teenager who shows up on her doorstep, injured, afraid, and expecting, one warm June day in 1943. As Bertie and her four sisters tenderly nurture Songbird back to health, the bond between the childless midwife and the motherless teen grows strong. But soon Songbird is forced to make a heartbreaking decision that will tear this little family apart.

Thirty years later, the day after his father’s funeral, Walker Wylie is stunned to learn he was adopted as an infant. The famous country singer enlists the help of adoption advocate Reese Chandler in the hopes of learning why he was abandoned by his birth parents. With the only clue he has in hand, Walker and Reese head deep into the Appalachian Mountains to track down Bertie Jenkins, the midwife who holds the secrets to Walker’s past.

For fans of historical and Southern fiction comes a poignant story of love and sacrifice set in the heart of Appalachia, from award-winning author Michelle Shocklee.
  • Full-length Christian historical fiction
  • Standalone novel
  • Book length: approximately 94,000 words
  • Includes discussion questions for book groups

Find the book on:
Amazon (aff link), Goodreads

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Review + Gift Card Giveaway! Old Testament Handbook

This post may contain “affiliate links.” This means if you click on a link with my affiliate code and purchase an item(s), I will receive an affiliate commission. You won't be charged extra, I'll just receive a small percentage of the purchase price. See my disclosure page here.

About the book:
Immerse yourself in the Old Testament Handbook, an elegant, full-color Bible handbook that includes robust summary content, charts, maps, word studies, illustrations, and more for every Old Testament book of the Bible. Constructed with high-quality cloth cover materials and a sewn binding, the Old Testament Handbook is designed to last a lifetime as a valuable companion resource for Bible study, teaching, and ongoing discipleship.


  • High-quality, foil-stamped cloth cover materials and Smyth-sewn binding meant to last a lifetime
  • Elegant full-color interior design, including maps, charts, illustrations, and other visual helps for every book of the Old Testament 
  • More than 75 in-depth word studies of key words found in each Old Testament book 
  • Ribbon marker for easy referencing between pages during study, teaching, or sharing 
The Old Testament Handbook features the highly readable, highly reliable text of the Christian Standard Bible® (CSB). The CSB captures the Bible’s original meaning without sacrificing clarity, making it easier to engage with Scripture’s life-transforming message and to share it with others. 
My rating:
5 stars
(View my rating system)
My thoughts:
The Old Testament Handbook seems like a great book to help study the Old Testament. I've only been able to flip through most of it and slowly read the section/chapter on Isaiah (I'm currently reading that book, so thought it was a good place to start with this handbook). It's been really enjoyable and I can see myself using this handbook for the rest of the OT.

There are so many cool features to this handbook and I want to highlight some of them:  
~Introductions for the books of the OT - which contain information on the author, background, message and purpose, summary, and structure.
~Outlines for the books, which I find helpful to give you a quick look at what happens in each book.
~Timelines and Charts, which I find helpful for me to visualize things better and keep things in order.
~Word Study - I love this section of each book. It goes in-depth on a few Hebrew words from the book. It is interesting to learn the meaning to certain words. I think this might be one of my favorite sections of the handbook.

It seems to be well made with a foil-stamped cloth cover. It lays flat and has a ribbon which makes it easy to keep your spot.

All in all, I'm really enjoying this handbook so far. I'm excited about the New Testament Handbook, which looks like it will be available Spring 2024. I recommend this if you are looking for an easy to read/follow handbook to help with studying the Old Testament. 

*Many thanks to Lifeway Christian Resources for providing a sample of the product for this review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.*

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention/review it on my blog. I was not required to give a positive review, only my honest opinion - which I've done. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.*

Find the book on:

Amazon (aff link), Goodreads

Giveaway: Enter for the chance to win a $10 Amazon giftcard (Note: This is limited to US winners only). Please enter by filling out the Giveaway Tools form below. Ends 10/9/23.

*If you win this giveaway from a different blog for the Old Testament Handbook promo, you are ineligible to win again. Winner's name/email will be sent to Momentum along with a backup/alternative winner, should the first winner be ineligible. You will be notified by them if you are the winner. I am not responsible for giveaway/prize.

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