Sang Spell by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor earned countless fans with the touching morality of Newbery Award-winning Shiloh and the laugh-out-loud realism of Achingly Alice. But aficionados may be surprised to find that Naylor's Sang Spell reads more like a haunting mystery. Grieving over the sudden death of his mother, Josh Vardy is reluctantly hitchhiking to Dallas (to begin a new life with his aunt), when he is mugged and left beside a remote mountain road. A woman driving a horse and cart takes him to a strange, fog-bound, primitive village, where there are no cars or telephones or electricity. The homespun villagers turn out to be a long-lost people of mixed ethnicity, called Melungeons. They accept Josh into their community, but will only answer his questions with evasiveness and enigmas. Mavis, a broad-shouldered young woman his own age, befriends Josh when he is put to work with the others gathering ginseng, a valuable root they refer to as "'sang" and trade once a year to Chinese merchants. Over and over again Josh tries to escape--by road and by river--but finds that somehow all routes lead back to this village that time has forgotten. When Josh finally joins in the villagers' rituals and celebrations, his feelings of despair about his own future begin to transform and heal. And after his loyalty to the Melungeons is tested, Josh finds that he is free at last to make the decision to leave.
Quick enjoyable read, but unfortunately the ending was a disappointment for me. I did enjoy the book but wish that the ending had not fallen so flat.
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