Saturday, November 9, 2013

What I Came to Tell You: A Guest Review

Move to the South, become a writer?  Lately I've been wondering if there's a unique inspiration in the South that leads to the pen.  I've noticed a new wave of authors in the southern states, including the Carolinas, although perhaps it's only my awareness of them which is new.  At any rate, one of "my" southern authors, Steve Cushman, the author of Heart With Joy, wrote a review of another southerner's book, Tommy Hay's book, published in 2013, What I Came to Tell You.  I enjoyed the review, and decided to share it with my readers.  I've also linked it to Kid Konnection, as the book is geared toward children in middle school.  I like that this book features a prominent, southern literary figure. You'll have to read the review to find out who I'm talking about!


What I Came to Tell You by Tommy Hays:
A Guest Review by Steve Cushman

Asheville author Tommy Hays’ first middle grade novel, What I Came to Tell You is sure to touch the hearts of readers young and old alike.  The novel follows Grover Johnston, a 12-year-old Asheville boy, as he tries to come to terms with the loss of his mother 6 months earlier.  

After her death, Grover retreats into the bamboo forest near his house and creates beautiful weavings, or tapestries, out of bamboo and leaves and branches and anything else he can find.  While Grover retreats into the woods, his father spends more and more time at work, managing the failing Thomas Wolfe house and essentially leaving Grover and his 10-year-old sister, Sudie, to fend for themselves.

If things weren’t difficult enough for the Johnstons, it looks as though one local man’s greed may take away the very things that are keeping them going--the bamboo forest and the Thomas Wolfe house.  But over the course of a few months, the Asheville community along with new neighbors, the Roundtrees, who are recovering from their own loss, help put Grover and his family on the path to healing and loving each other again.  

The novel is set in Asheville, and Hays does a fine job of pulling in the local feel of the town with its bookstores and coffee shops.  The town’s most famous literary figure, Thomas Wolfe, is also omnipresent throughout.  The cemetery where Grover’s mother is buried also contains Wolfe’s family.  And Grover and his sister are named after characters in Wolfe’s most famous novel, Look Homeward, Angel.  

Hays is the Executive Director of the Great Smokies Writing Program and teaches at UNC Asheville.  His previous novel, The Pleasure was Mine, was a wonderful story of loss and connection and the importance of family, and was selected for several community-wide reading programs in various cities and counties, including Greenville, SC, and Greensboro, NC.

While What I Came To Tell You is aimed at younger readers, it certainly will catch and keep the interest of readers of all ages.  Anyone who believes in the healing power of art, and family and love, will find something here that will touch them and make them glad they’d taken the time read this new gem of a novel by one of North Carolina’s best writers, Tommy Hays.


Thank you for this terrific review, Steve!  Kid Konnection is hosted each Saturday by Booking Mama.  Your comments are welcomed, as always. 


  1. Tommy Hays is a local favorite around here. I'm going to Asheville soon and may try to pick this book up at Malaprop's.

  2. How wonderful, Kathy! Thanks for your comment.

  3. This seems like a lovely book. The cover is precious as well.

  4. Sounds more then worthy. I like what sounds like a pro environmental theme. Where I live we have been fighting developers who are determined to destroy the local forests for decades so I can really relate.

  5. Does sound heartwarming What a nice idea to have guest reviews every now and then!

  6. Sounds like a powerful story for younger readers... and adults too. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I do think there's something in the water down South that inspires great writers. What I Came to Tell You sounds like a great book. I like the cover art.

  8. This sounds like a great story for young and old alike!

  9. I love the cover, so appealing, and the story sounds lovely. I am reading a children's book every now and again and have reviewed a couple recently, it's a good escape! Nice to discover your site.


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