A Swallow Press Book

The Handywoman Stories — 2002

By Lenore McComas Coberly

The Handywoman Stories are the real thing—deep, pure, honest, and wise. Lenore Coberly's gift for narrative is a kind of genius. What a wonderful storyteller she is!”

Lee Smith

“These stories are heartwarming and heart-rending. They are sweet, emotional, down-home tales that stir the soul and often bring a tear to the eye.”

W. P. Kinsella

“Coberly taps into the lost tradition of rural storytelling…. Her earnest sense of compassion should appeal to readers seeking to explore country life in a difficult era.”

Publishers Weekly

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Sometimes it's possible to pick up a book and hear the words being spoken by the characters as if you were sitting across the table from them. This is the sensation you'll have as you read through The Handywoman Stories by Lenore McComas Coberly.

Whether the story describes the civil defense preparations of a small West Virginia town in World War II, the same town years later dealing with an influx of hippies, or the return of a woman to her roots after decades up north, the voices are convincing and true. “I nearly got kicked in the head by a cow before I learned that if you use your full strength pulling milk, you won’t get much milk,” says one. “To see Zevelda the way she was that Sunday is, well, not something you're very likely to see,” says another.

The Handywoman Stories themselves are driven by characters shaped by the place they have lived most all of their lives. They deal with economic depression, mine and war deaths, the arrogance of community leaders, and what might have been, but was not, a stultifying environment. Their tools are astonishing resourcefulness, steadfast friendship, and always humor.

Lenore McComas Coberly has woven together a bittersweet community of strong Appalachian women and men in this remarkable collection. Moving and joyful, these stories are made from the stuff of life.

Picture of Lenore McComas Coberly

Lenore McComas Coberly grew up in Lincoln County, West Virginia. She is the author of The Handywoman Stories and the senior author of Writers Have No Age. Her poetry, essays, and stories have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Appalachian Journal, and other journals and in Wild Street Notes: Fifty Years of West Virginia Poetry, 1950-1999.

Cover of 'The Handywoman Stories'