Robert Morgan is the bestselling author of Oprah's Book Club pick Gap Creek. In his more recent This Rock, the author returns to the same neck of the Appalachian Mountains, only this time focuses on a different family and that family's different problems. The story is told from the perspective of Ginny, the mother of three, and from Muir, the younger son. Each section is written with the obvious intelligence, or ignorance, of each character by the author, so the work is filled with poetic hillbilly syntax.
Muir is an aspiring young man. The problem is, he is confused, like most people, on how to focus his aspirations. He thinks he might want to be a preacher, certain that God is calling him to the pulpit. And he likes the idea. The words from God are in him, and at the same time, he would get the opportunity to show off for the young lady he likes. He also wants to work as a fur trader, to trap mink and fox in the mountains. Like his grandfather, he'd like to build a new church for the congregation. He plans to build it on his land on the mountaintop. He wants to build it out of rock, and he wants to build it alone.
Moody sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. Maybe he's always felt like his mother liked Muir best. Maybe he's angry at growing up without a father. Whatever the reason, Moody is a rebel. He stays out to all hours of the night, drinking and running moonshine for a gang of dangerous characters. He seems to strive to get in trouble with the law. Perhaps his biggest enemy is his own jealousy. But what most people don't see is the big, sincere heart that he hides away. And because of this secret, and the mix of other harbored feelings, Moody and Muir are always at odds. They are a modern day Cain and Abel.
Ginny is stuck in the middle, torn watching each son work against his own set of challenging circumstances. She is not without her own problems. She is lonely, but has to take care of her youngest daughter. Though it has been years and years, she still mourns the death of her oldest daughter and her husband, Tom.
This Rock is lyrically written, loaded with heartfelt emotion. It opens strong, and the tension builds throughout. Struggles and disappointment lace the pages, making the work a tragedy. And yet, there is something about the overall narration that leaves the reader feeling content when the story has ended.