Ozark Native

Ozark Native

“It was one of those perfect Ozark mornings—clean, fresh, and green. I closed my eyes, puffed out my chest, and sucked my lungs full of that fresh-scented air. I could feel the tingling sensations clear down to my toes. It made me feel like I had just been born and had my whole life to live again.”

As a Missouri native, I grew up exploring the Ozark foothills and have always appreciated author Wilson Rawls for his simple, but lovely descriptions through the eyes of young boys as they tromp through forests similar to my own. Rawls’s books Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of the Monkeys contain such heart and beauty that it’s hard to put them down, no matter the age of the reader.

I’m excited for the opportunity to write a guest blog for A. R. Geiger! I’ve known Abigail for a number of years. She’s a lovely soul, and I’ve been blessed beyond measure to have her as a friend. If you haven’t checked out her book of short stories, The Birdwoman, you’re really missing out. Her short stories are very short and engaging, thought-provoking, with gorgeous imagery and energy. Again, they’re stories you won’t be able to put down. And when you finish it, you’ll be thirsty for even more.

Now, for my review of one of my all-time favorite books.

Wilson Rawls, author of Summer of the Monkeys, gives his raw, but humorous perspective of his native country in the Ozark mountains of Oklahoma through the eyes of 14-year-old Jay Berry Lee.

Jay Berry and his dog Rowdy are running through the woods one day, when Jay Berry sees something that stops him short. A monkey. In the river bottoms.

This adventure explores Jay Berry’s life one summer as he tries to catch the monkeys for a reward being offered by a circus. Like any young Ozark boy growing up in the early 1900s, he desperately wants his own .22 and pony, and this is just the way to make enough money for both.

Comical scenes of monkeys attacking Jay Berry and Rowdy, heart-rending scenes between Jay Berry and Daisy, and daily life with the Lee family will draw you from page to page. Rawls never shies away from emotional scope and incredible, selfless sacrifice.

I can’t say much more about this book without avoiding spoilers because of how cohesive the story is. However, I would like to share imagery of the Ozark hills through Jay Berry’s eyes:

A little farther along, just as Rowdy and I rounded a bend in the road, I stopped and stared in wonderment at the sight directly ahead. Here and there on the long sloping hillside, milky white splotches stood out like spilt buckets of milk in the deep green. The Ozarks’ most beautiful flowers, the dogwoods were in full bloom. Mixed in with the green and white, the deep glare of redbuds gleamed like railroad flares in the dewy morning.

As I stood there drinking in all of that beauty, I said, ‘Rowdy, Daisy says that the Old Man of the Mountains is taking care of everything in the hills. If he is, he must have worked a long time painting that picture.’

This description is near and dear to my heart because every spring, as I’m driving though our hill country, I drink in all of this beauty, too. It makes my heart sing with gratefulness.

Summer of the Monkeys contains wonderful lessons of life and of the heart, adventure, love, and laughter. You will laugh until you can’t laugh any more. By the end, your heart will be so full you’ll think it will burst. I wish that every kid should grow up reading this book.

About the author

profilepic Hi, my name is Bethany Swoboda of Wordbender Editing. I’d be honored if you would take a moment to visit my site, which I’m just starting up. I love reading, reading, reading, exploring the woods on horseback, and fully submerging myself in any adventure (book or real life) that I can.

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