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Marrying Stone by Pamela Morsi

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Marrying Stone
Marrying Stone #1

Pamela Morsi
Historical Romance
Published in 1994

H/h - J. Monroe "Roe" Farley/Margaret "Meggie" Best
Setting: Ozark Mountains, Arkansas, 1902.

Read in Mar, 2012.
My rating:
                                                            [spoiler alert]

Reading Marrying Stone, for me, was like going through a very different kind of a lifestyle and life stories. I generally love small-town romances, the settings and the characters; Pamela Morsi didn’t disappoint me in either. Prior to reading this book I had no idea about Ozark Mountains and the Ozarks so in that regard, this book was very informative. PM’s writing is very open and honest, the narratives of Ozark Mountains and the lifestyle of the people there was pretty remarkable. Never once I felt that I’m run down because she did a great job of making the mundane things of their life in early 20th century a fun read.

Monroe ‘Roe’ Farley comes to Ozark Mountains with a fellowship, where he’d research on the old Celtic music and its changes in the centuries of Ozark’s tradition. Roe is a city born and bred but lonely. His parents were never close to him and died when he was young. His life was spend mostly at schools. We don’t get much narration on his life in the city, but from his musings about that. In fact, city life isn’t involved unless by mention. The whole story takes place in the mountains. There are a few journal entries by Roe, which gives us a good idea about his mindset. He’s a brilliant student no doubt and has every ambition of fulfilling his fellowship and build a great carrier. So, 1st day here and he loses his mule and most of his belongings. Poor guy! While chasing for it, he comes across a giant of a man, blonde and handsome, smiling down at him. He introduces himself as Jesse Best and that he lives nearby. After a few word exchanges, Roe understands that Jesse is somewhere near his own age but probably younger and definitely slow witted. But he’s so honest in everything, almost childlike. Roe likes him on-spot when Jesse makes him his only frien’. Jesse takes Roe to his house where he meets Jesse’s younger sister Meggie. There is also Jesse’s elderly father, Henry or Onery, as he likes to be known as. Roe still didn’t know the kind of weird situation he’s going to be in when Jesse invites him to stay for supper.

Meggie is a dreamer. It’s said that her head is always in the clouds, which is why her bad cooking is a legend in this part of the mountains. Meggie has some education, so she can read and write and has been the winner of the spelling bee. Jesse thinks Meggie is the smartest girl, certainly smarter than him. You can’t help but love Jesse and how honest he’s about his short comings. No whining, no berating himself or the others but taking the fact inside and work harder. It’s not that he doesn’t understand but just slow to when sorting out his thoughts. Even then, hidden meanings of words aren’t his forte. He just takes is all straightforwardly. And Jesse loves his family without any conditions at all. He works hard, being the strongest member of the family. His father is crippled with a bad leg and aged. As I read on about the hard mountain life, I saw the kind of work they do all day... it’s kind of unimaginable for us but I loved reading about it all. Anyway, Meggie can read and so she’s read that only fairytale book her mother had and it gave her some distorted idea about men. She now wants her own prince charming and no man in this part of the mountain will do, which is why she’s still unmarried. So when she spots Roe and his handsome face and graceful figure with the charming, gentlemanly behavior, it wasn’t hard for Meggie to decide that he is the one, the prince she’s been waiting for. Yah I know but I found the honestly and comparable innocence of these mountain people really refreshing and Meggie is an innocent in every sense of the word. The incidents that follow later that day, sadly, took off the dreamy cloud out of her eyes. She kinda throws herself on Roe (but I didn’t see it that way, it was rather she was open in showing her affection and appreciation) and kisses him. Roe, hearing her words on ‘prince charming, marriage and love’ freaks out. For a city bred man like him, it was the scariest thought. Roe didn’t want to be tied down so soon and certainly not to this mountain girl. He has bigger plans on his life. It certainly leaves a bad taste in Meggie’s mouth and so she’s furious. But while all these happened, Roe was eating Meggie’s special piccalilli which makes him ill. It should’ve been but the whole incident, to me, was strangely funny!

When Onery and Jesse find Roe, they take him in. Onery decides the man would have to stay here and get well. Meggie, of course, doesn’t share this sentiment! She’s mad; on Roe and on herself for falling so easily for that slick, city stranger. Even though Meggie helps taking care of Roe, she ignores him as much as she could. Roe, as he is getting well, doesn’t like the feeling. He’s still resolute that there’s no way he’s taking it up with this innocent mountain girl. Roe has known women so he knows Meggie isn’t the type he can just have some mindless flings with and then leave her ruined when it’s time for him to leave. Other than that, he likes Jesse and her father. Jesse, simple though he is, would win anyone’s mind, Roe wasn’t any different. Onery is a jovial man and it’s easy to see why his offspring are so easy going living the tough life of the Ozark Mountains. Onery, when he hears of Roe’s work, isn’t very impressed. Scholarly life isn’t the most impressive thing in the mountains but Jesse sure is. He’s damn proud of his frien’! But anyway, Roe learns that Onery used to be a fiddler once and can sing, Jesse too and they invite Roe to stay with them for his research. Onery would introduce Roe to the next community meeting called the Literary and see if others are willing in his endeavor. But for that, Roe has to work with them! Oh boy, what do to now?! Roe can’t do a single thing that is called ‘farm work’ so he tries to pay them off for his lodgings, but Onery waves his money off. Work is what is necessary but I could already smell that Onery had a plan in mind, specially hearing what went on between him and Meggie... I could smell something fishy about that. Lol So Roe starts his mountain life, learning things. I loved those scenes a lot. Loved how Jesse would show things to Roe and so on. Jesse was so so adorable, can’t explain. He kind of stole the spotlight for me more than once.

In the Literary, Roe gets to meet with the folks of this small-town, where everybody knows everybody else. The people of this community has come from the Piggotts and the McNeeses and with many intermarriages, everybody is everybody’s relative to some extent. But still, there are rivalries in between, some like Beulah Winsloe can’t stand Granny Piggott, who with her late husband, was the first to settle in here and so she reigns supreme. No matter what, Granny Piggott’s words are the law here, or at least no one can ignore her words. She’s one smart old woman, I liked her a lot. But the people are instantly suspicious of Roe and not willing to help him. Meggie comes to the Literary too with Jesse and Onery and meets up with her girlfriends. One, Eda is instantly interested in Roe but she’s pretty vain and self-centered with a rude mouth. Her interest doesn’t sit well with Meggie. She is always reminding herself that Roe is not the prince she thought him to be and yet, she can’t stand this interest from other women. Anyway, Onery asks Roe to mix up with people in the time he’s here, so that people get to know him and they probably will be more interested to help him. Roe is hurt by the unwillingness but he sees the wisdom of Onery’s words. And he does that. At first he records songs and music from Jesse and Onery. Jesse is an exceptional fiddle player; it’s like his instinct. Music just flows through his hands.

I’ve already mentioned how much I liked reading about the ‘mundane’ works of everyday life of Jesse and Meggie. I loved their easy banters. Jesse is always bringing in some critter/bugs/slimy creatures and scaring Meggie off with it. I loved how she’d go all ‘vermaint!!! I hate it!’ lol I wasn’t annoyed at Jesse because it was the source of such innocent fun for him. Meggie certainly wasn’t, though she hates those things with an inch of her life. One day, something happens. Roe was coming home with Jesse, when Jesse has this idea of scaring Meggie. They hear her in the wash-house so they figured she’s doing the washing. Jesse digs out a baby skink and tiptoeing he goes to the wash-house roof to drop it off. Jesse does that without looking, giggles and goes off when Meggie goes all ‘vermaint’ and screams (yah, those happened more than once :p). Roe didn’t really enjoy it, seeing how Meggie despised those critters but looking at Jesse’s giggle he can’t help starting to laugh. And then Roe decides to see what happened to Meggie, which kind of begins his undoing. He finds Meggie naked and wet from a bath. Meggie also sees him peeking through and feels desire running through her, a feeling she’s never really felt so far in her life or quite understood. They don’t really talk about it but it’s on their mind. By now, they have this truce and started talking to each-other, however minimal it was. Roe can’t help thinking about Meggie and as the days pass by, it becomes harder for him to ignore his desire for her.

In the meantime, they attend a community meeting where this ‘kangaroo court’ is held. It’s meant for fun and they were having fun. Jesse plays his fiddle and everyone’s entranced. Roe goes to sit on the marrying stone, a stone which have centuries-old tradition in this little town and is known to have magical powers. The couple wanting to marry or having such intentions, can jump off this small stone and let everyone know about it. Actually, once a couple jumps, everyone take that as an unofficial marriage. This town is also named after this stone. Meggie follows him there, they talk to each-other and Roe can’t help but kiss her. Then something startles them and they jump the stone together to save themselves. Sadly, the community people see them and the townsfolk, kind of forcefully, declares them married. This brings trouble for them because Meggie knows Roe won’t be happy about this. Then the other traditions begin as people began coming to their house with the dowry, gifts from the community, to ‘set the young couple’s nest.’ Onery understands that Meggie and Roe do not want this but Jesse is surely happy that his ‘frien’ is now his family too. When, as considered family, the people began welcoming Roe more and offered help with his research, Roe makes a plan of a pretend marriage as long as he’s here. Meggie only wants to help him and ‘pretend’ a marriage if that’s as far as she can go with Roe Farley, so she agrees. It works out but it also puts a lot of mental and physical stress on them. They sure do want one another but apparently, can’t do anything about it. Onery isn’t happy about this situation but he relents on Meggie’s pressure. They begin attending ceremonies and gatherings as a couple. Roe can’t help but be possessive of Meggie, even though he knows he has no business being possessive.

Roe continues his life with the Best family. At daytime he’d work hard and at the evening, he would go out with Jesse to record songs on his Ediphone from different townsfolk. One day, Jesse and Roe go to hunt bull frogs at night. They come upon some guy who takes some of the frogs with a drink that’s known as ‘donk’ and both become drunk. I think I came across an odd but a really good scene here with Roe and Jess. As drunk, they open up their minds to each-other. Jesse talks about his ambitions and feelings, of his intentions of having a woman someday as a man want a woman. He talks about Althea McNees and how good she smells. They talk about sex, Jesse asking Roe about it and his experiences. Roe reluctantly tells him about his past lovers, not details mind you but how it feels and so on. It gave me the feeling that those were prostitutes and nothing else. He also tells Jesse that as a man, he has every right of having sex, and whatever Onery tells him doesn’t matter. Jesse is excited about it and informs Roe about some widow living down the mountains. They make a deal to visit her someday. Well, I’m glad that they never get to do that in the later part of the story! Meggie waits up for these two. Jesse injures his ankle and somehow Roe drags him home. Meggie is a bit angry about it and helps Roe to tuck Jesse in. Afterwards, one talk leads another and they somehow end up in the nearest forest, making love. Next day, Roe is horrified, knowing what he’s done in his inebriated state. It’s Meggie who is very calm about it. She doesn’t say ‘yes’ to Roe’s marriage proposal knowing he’s just doing his duty and someday would come to regret it and her. She tells Roe, when he leaves she’d make up some story to the folks about his death after some times and it’d not be a hurdle if she decides to marry since they already think she’s married to Roe and would be a widow to them. Roe is pissed as hell but he relents. Onery guesses what happened; only Jesse doesn’t.

Then, life again goes on as usual. One day, soon enough Meggie and Roe end up making love again. Boy, Roe is one hell of a sexy nerd! lol It happens where they were building an extension of the cabin, for Roe and Meggie. She sends Jesse to bring some herbs for Onery’s bad leg. Roe again proposes to her. Meggie refuses and he gets angry. I was getting a bit exasperated by now. Soon, they all attend the marriage of Althea McNees and Paisley Winsloe, Beulah the dragon’s son. Paisley is a momma’s boy, like every of his family members. In his family, there’s no nay saying on Beulah’s words. Paisley wanted to marry Meggie a few months ago but Meggie was never interested in him. He’s a braggart if one every saw one. All know Althea to be nice and a reserved sort of girl, who lives with her uncle. She was abandoned by her father when she was young, right after her mother died and hasn’t really known affection in that sense. So her uncle was kinda dumping her to Paisley. There are subtle hints that Jesse likes Althea and his liking is different. No one actually believes that simpleminded Jesse can have feelings and desires like any other grown man, so he can go near the women gatherings in the community meeting. But Jesse likes the smell of women. It feels great. But Althea is always nice to him, not like some other folks who are rude and dismissive about him. Poor babe doesn’t even understand that ‘simple’ is rather a derogatory word here, and just not his name, when they call him Simple Jess. Althea and Paisley marry, not the best of matches but it’s done. Anyway, Roe is still trying to get Meggie to say ‘yes’ to him, but without any success. In the wedding, he and Paisley exchange words on Meggie, and Roe kisses her in front of everyone to show them they are happy together. Meggie gets angry and frustrated. How long can this lie go on, when she wants it to be a truth so badly? After this incident, they fight and Meggie asks Roe to leave this place. Roe immediately decides that he would. It pains him to leave Onery with his bad legs, pains him to lie to Jesse and certainly pains him to leave Meggie forever but he has no other option. He just doesn’t know how to love because he has never known love in his life.

The last chapters were excellent. Meggie was living a listless life among all the activities. Jesse still didn’t know that Roe would return and so, he’d chatter away about Roe always, which made it harder for Meggie to forget about him. 3 months pass by and she’s yet to declare him dead to the community. She just can’t bring herself to do it. Suddenly she decides it’s time and she does. Jesse is heartbroken beyond words and his grief is as honest as his other emotions, it broke my heart too. I could see this dilemma that Meggie had and couldn’t really blame her, though the whole situation was really heartbreaking and depressing. Meanwhile, we read just one journal entry from Roe in the city, where he has presented his work but his work was rejected by the fellowship society. How utterly horrible! Now he’s thinking of doing a new research to earn this fellowship somehow but he still thinks of the mountain people and the Best family. But of Meggie, he tries not to think at all... As Meggie starts her mourning, Granny Piggott hearing the news comes to soothe her pain. But Meggie’s pain is of a different sort, of the loss of Roe in a different way and deceiving these people. Granny talks about her own life and her husband’s death, her wisdom about life. It was a great scene. Meggie listens to her and prepares herself for the next week’s funeral. But this funeral turned out to be a very very beautiful ending, which just left me crying. I was soooo happy for these two. For Jesse and Onery, too. Ah *sigh*

Great introduction for me to Pamela Morsi’s work. Now, I’m off to read Jesse’s book because he’s a big reason why Marrying Stone is a 5 star from me.


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