Those Who Went Remain There Still by Cherie Priest

ImageI just finished a terrific horror story by one of my favorite authors, Cherie Priest called Those Who Went Remain There Still. I have previously enjoyed Priest’s alternate history and steampunk series collectively known as The Clockwork Century and her urban fantasy series starring Raylene, an OCD vampire and her stellar cast of mismatched companions who she is reluctant to have. I attended a book signing for Inexplicables at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Lexington, KY, and was intrigued by the relatively local setting of Leitchfield, KY, for the book she adapted from her own family history.  Priest is descended from the Coys, a central Kentucky family who feuded with Manders and she adapted the family legend of some unusual inheritance conditions involving both families and the long standing tradition in Kentucky that everyone has a Daniel Boone story to weave an addicting story involving the clearing of the Wilderness Road, a monster from deep within the Kentucky forest, and mediums communing with the spirits.

I knew Priest could brilliantly tell a ghost story from her blog entry on the subject “How to Tell a True Ghost Story,” but I wasn’t prepared, as someone who avoids horror, for how much I would appreciate one from my home state and involving people with whom I could identify on a number of levels. I especially enjoyed the dual plot as Priest adeptly jumped between Boone’s 1775 forging of the Wilderness Road and the 1899 world of Leitchfield, KY.  I was super impressed by the well woven plot points involving the Lily Dale, New York, spiritualists. Those Who Went Remain There Still is a fast read with a twist ending that worked out just as it should have for the characters she created.

Kentucky is a wonderful, beautiful place that I love and think everyone should visit. It and its people demonstrate limitless potential and contribute valuable works to the worlds of art, industry, education, science, medicine, and any other area of life you can name.  But with any place in the world, there are disparities between populations and hard truths about its history. This book focuses on a poor community in central Kentucky in the 1890’s. Honestly, it’s not a idyllic social setting in spite of the natural beauty. Two families descended from the same man have feuded for generations since the Civil War, and most of the characters are uneducated and have never left their homes, as would be true for much of the remote parts of the state. Two of the main characters chose to leave the community of their relatives they didn’t fit so well. Priest mentioned at her Inexplicables signing that there was some backlash from Kentuckians who read the book because the story focused on those who moved away. Brain drain and other problems with exodus from small towns is a huge issue many of my Eastern Kentucky friends and I have discussed for hours. I think it’s so important to remember that just because people leave Kentucky doesn’t mean they stop being Kentuckians or that they stop contributing to the world on behalf of Kentucky. They just also build on their Kentucky roots and contribute on behalf of their adopted home states or countries as well.

I received this book as a Christmas present from Brad and I understand it’s difficult to find in hardcover but the ebook is only $2.99 on Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Definitely give it a chance if you are an e-reader. I hope with the rise in popularity of the Clockwork Century Novels it will get some additional attention from publishers in the form of a re-release. I am greatly looking forward to finally getting a chance to sit down with Inexplicables and will eventually check out her Eden Moore books as well.