Silas House’s, A Parchment of Leaves plays through the life of one of House’s most vivid and compassionate characters, Vine, a full blood Cherokee raised in the rural mountains of Kentucky. House’s use of spiritual surroundings displays the beauty and wonder that structures the novel. As the reader sees Vine grow from young adult, into motherhood, they can see that growth not only can be in wisdom and maturity but by making bonds that will last a lifetime.
The people that she meets and lives around impact her morals as the reader sees Vine’s life unfold. The novel is divided into sections of Vine’s life that entail obsession, love, unspoken forgiveness, and loyalty as themes, all the while teaching vine precious morals that she later comes to appreciate as she realizes that all she needs is right where it all started. The conflict comes when she finds herself attached spiritually to the ones that made her life significant.
The novel is structured into different parts of Vine’s life that support major themes with each section. When Vine is a child the reader will recognize the innocence of life in the eyes of a young teenage girl as she falls in love with a man she hardly knows even after they get married. Confluence represents the freedom of life that we as people all experience at a young age, but for Vine these experiences come from the rituals of her people, the Cherokee Indians. Vine’s naïve nature foreshadows to the reader Vine’s future real world problems and inexperience of responsibility and motherhood. The second sections, On The Mountain, entails the experiences that Vine goes through in life, i.e. motherhood, responsibilities, all without the presence of men.
The last section, The Promise of Joy, is ironic as well as hopeful. This section contains the climax of the story which, as the reader finds, is not joyous at all. Vine comes to realize that things aren’t as bad as they seem though as she gains wisdom and as she experiences significant rites of passage in a woman’s life. The reader sees vine finding her true self, and the contagious love she infects others with around her. But what makes this novel so interesting is that it is told from not just a woman’s point of view, but a Cherokee woman’s point of view. Not only that, the writer of the novel is a man, which gives the story a twist that any reader can appreciate. The fact that the story is also from a woman’s point of view also gives the reader a more emotional look at what it was like to be a woman in this time period.
From reading the story, one can obviously see that Vine experiences several cultural differences living in God’s Creek. Saul, the man Vine marries, is raised in a traditional white Irish family. When they first get married, Saul’s mother Esme is skeptical about his choice to marry a Cherokee woman because of what others will think, only to find that Vine is a worthy mother with a good hearted soul. Saul and Vine’s love is distanced when Saul has to work far away from God’s Creek to aid the in the war and make money for his family to survive.
Even though the two are distant, their love is displayed in letter from Saul. The letters show a side of Saul that Vine never knew to exist since he was normally quiet but comforting while they were in each other’s presence. The letters also make Vine feel lonely which, in turn, intensifies her love and affection for Saul. Being away from Saul is not the only thing that troubles Vine. Saul’s brother Aaron is obsessed with Vine, often making her uncomfortable and uneasy when he is near. Aaron represents the evilness that is be a part of human nature. Aaron knows that he can’t have Vine but his obsession for her does not subside, elevating and twisting the story into a whole new perspective of human nature that Silas House captures very vividly.
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