Reviews - What do customers think about Where The Water-Dogs Laughed: The Story of the Great Bear?
Storytelling at its best, raised to the level of myth and timelessness Dec 31, 2006
With this novel Price brings to a close a remarkable multigenerational saga set in the mountains of North Carolina, a remote corner of the world in which the brutal aftermath of the Civil War is up-close-and-personal and seemingly without end. But what an end to this four-volume feast of the senses! Price engages the reader in the rawness of human nature and lets us rise to the level of myth and timelessness, right alongside his characters, touching the best and worst in all of us and causing us to think about our own need for finding meaning and seeking redemption. Price skillfully and sensitively lets us share in the journeys of both Hamby McFee and the Great Bear; and his drawing us inside the minds of both of them, raised to the level of myth, is storytelling at its very best. Supporting the central story of Hamby and the Great Bear are richly textured themes that create the fabric of the mountains and her people---environmental, economic, societal, political, spiritual---and never once does Price lapse into a gratuitous or stereotypical treatment of these themes. These books will linger in your mind long after you read the last page, and I recommend you treat yourself to a real feast by reading all four novels in the order they were written: Hiwassee, Freedom's Altar, The Cock's Spur, and Where the Water-Dogs Laughed.
Water-Dogs Dec 22, 2006
Charles F. Price is one of the best kept secrets in the Appalachian Mountains. His book, "Where the Water-Dogs Laughed: The Story of the Great Bear," contains sophisticated character development and a true to life historical treatment of the time just after the Civil War. Those who were wealthy and powerful got that way by exploiting the land, and most everyone else scraped by and wished they could do the same, except for Hamby, a half Black, half White man who spends much of the story working out his anger toward the injustices he faces.
I was thoroughly taken by the main character, Hamby, and the Great Bear Yan-e'gwa's intertwined fates and of course the crooked dog Cattywampus' role in the end. The dog, who had previously been damaged by a bear so severely he could not walk straight quite literally had to be made straight again by Yan-e'gwa.
The idea of recognizing the life force of the land made the book feel so much more contemporary than the typical story written about the era of the Civil War and after. The strength of humans is measured not in their defeat of the land as adversary, but in their connection to it as steward. In this, Hamby comes out superior to all.
This was the first Charles F. Price book I have read and I highly recommend it. His is not a genre I normally read, but I found it a pleasant surprise and plan to read the rest of his work.
A truly fascinating story & so well written! Dec 21, 2006
The other reviews here are more detailed than mine. but I do want to add that "Where the Water Dogs Laughed" is a marvelous book, one that shows some literary cohones and ingenuity. When Price writes in the voice of the bear, the font changes to clue you in, but even if it didn't, you would know it isn't the voice of a person. It's hard to put my finger on exactly how (the magic!) Price does this but he does it so well that going from people narrative to the voice of the bear is totally seamless. It works really well.
Hamby McFee makes his last comeback here in a truly poignant story of family loyalty, complex racial issues, accurate local history such as the typhoid epidemic of 1889 ( I hope I have the correct date!) The ending of this book is spectacular, one that is not only surprising but has a vivid luminous quality that left me breathless. It reminded me of Nuala O'Faolain's 2002 novel "My Dream of You" that has a mystical and also surprising ending.
Why no large publisher picked up this book, even for a possible movie version, is almost shocking. This is a wonderful book full of great characters and exquisite storytelling. Charles Frazier, move over!
A Book about Grace Dec 7, 2003
This book is about grace. Where the Water-dogs Laughed is peopled with characters so real I experienced their triumphs, failures, and thoughts as my own. Set in the late 1800's in the mountains of Western North Carolina, the characters are engaged in struggles that echo many of today's troubles including the devastation of the environment, the need to make money from the land, domestic emotional abuse, and hard economic times. The Great Bear and Cattywampus Dog are as real as the people. The Cherokee belief about the covenant between bears and man is told through the Great Bear. I found this a surprising approach and became intrigued with the Bear's voice and experience of his world. My favorite character is Hamby McFee, an ex-slave, who takes over the book from beginning to end. He struggles with feeling separated from others and yet bound to them through their shared place in the Hiwassee valley. His desire to maintain his integrity by protecting himself from the judgment of others with a hard, bitter attitude results in a loneliness I found familiar. Hamby is one of the most original characters I've encountered and I found myself wanting to defend him whenever he was misunderstood by the other characters. Price incorporates the romance of his own grandparents, Lily Carter and Will Price, into the story. Their courtship is formal and old-fashioned and ultimately inspiring as they overcome the obstacles laid out for them by Will's adopted father. Another love relationship takes place between Absalom Middleton and Cassandra Weatherby; Price does an incredible job of evoking an erotic, passionate relationship without ever depicting a sexual encounter. Adding balance, humor, and grace is Irish Bill Moore who is as rooted to the land as the Great Bear. Like an elf who lives in the forest he emerges from the mountain mists beating his Civil War drum, gaily teasing the wife he adores, mourning his two sons who are lost to a typhoid epidemic, longing for his youth, and wisely seeing the ability of man and Mother Earth to endure. This book is gritty, true, and full of the struggles of daily existence and it raises us up to taste something larger than ourselves.
Inside the Mind of a Great Bear Nov 12, 2003
In WHERE THE WATER DOGS LAUGHED, the last in a series of four books by Charles F. Price, the author has reached his full stride as a writer. His characters, especially the protagonists, Hamby and the Great Bear, are finely drawn and the way their minds work, is the most fascinating part of the book. In addition, his skillful blending of Cherokee legend and family history creates an accurate and telling picture of that part of western North Carolina that never seems to be included, on a map, with the rest of the state. The time is the turn of the last century, when the first glimmerings of antipathy between "progress" and "ecology" become apparent. As often happens, the need to provide a livlihood for one's family, is frequently at odds with what is good for the land and its' inhabitants, including bears. This Bear is the standard bearer for his race and his thoughts and memories form his purpose. Hamby, the main human character has appeared in the earlier books, but without the sensitivity and definition given him in this novel. He is a man who lives alone, spiritually, from the rest of the world and has his own set of standards, from which he never deviates. As a result, he misses some of the gentler experiences, of human life. These two uncompromising characters are brought together in a stunning, yet trimphant collision, that will ring through the mountains for years. Charles Price is considered a regional writer, but this book makes him a universal one, in my opinion. No matter where you live, this book is a great read. Don't miss it.