I will calm down but for now I’m flying high with this new review!
Dennis R. Miller is the Public Relations Director at Mansfield University and author of two novels.
“I approached this novel with mild wariness, mainly because authors who write about this rural northern Pennsylvania region often succumb to stereotypes. As a native, I’m sensitive to images of two-dimensional backwoods folks one step removed from tobacco chewing knuckle draggers.
I was surprised and hooked after the first page of Speaking in Tungs. Karla Jay also grew up in this area and portrays it well. The plot revolves around a speech therapist who lives in the west returning to this rural Pennsylvania county to find her birth parents.
She stays in the town of Tungston, or Tungs for short. (Thus, I consider Speaking in Tungs one of the great book titles of 2015.) It also shows immediately the author’s love of the language and her clever, subtle word play.
I fell in love with it from the opening paragraphs and remained intrigued, entertained and impressed. The main character, Marliegh, is out of her element in this county lined with dirt roads, quirky country stores and inhabited by folks with needs and a rural wisdom about human nature.
Most impressive is seeing the world through the eyes of Marliegh who makes missteps and bravely tries valiantly to fix her mistakes. The book mixes humor and compassion with a wit rare in novels these days.
The characters are nuanced individuals, especially store owner Elyk who hunts rattlesnakes, poaches elk and is obsessed with crossword puzzles, and Lawyer, the cat-and-mouse love interest for Marleigh.
This is a novel of manners, of social norms in an area where one of the big festivals is a rattlesnake hunt (which IS a big deal in this area).
It’s also a love story and a mystery with more twists than a Pennsylvania mountain road. Marleigh is attracted to Lawyer who frustrates her and forces her look at herself. A mysterious stranger stalks her for no reason that she can see, but finally catches her to kill her. After the 2013 story of the survivalist Eric Frein who killed a state trooper then eluded police for months off the land, the character takes on a chilling reality.
Tioga County, PA is an exotic land to people outside this area. To this native, Speaking in Tungs is a well-written novel that does justice to this wild and beautiful area populated by real people whose characters are formed by the nature that surrounds and is part of them.
With nearly every sentence I found myself impressed by Karla Jay’s talent for storytelling, clean writing, humor and wit.
This novel a joy to read — and reread.”