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Amy Burle
The Other Side of Certain

Adult; Romance; (Market)

Fiction tells the best truths and the best truth of all is love. Strong willed Mattie Mobley planned to be a school teacher, but when times grew tough during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and there were no teaching positions in her hometown of Asheville, NC, Mattie took work starting a school and helping the Pack Horse Librarians just over the mountains in the small town of Certain, Kentucky. Her socialite upbringing leaves her unprepared for life in rural Appalachia. She's not certain at all that this is a good situation, but she's determined, and honestly, a little desperate. Of all the things that Mattie does have-money, comforts, a good name, she doesn't have what matters most– friendship, love, and a purpose of her own. Daniel, "The Grizzly Bear," Barrett had a lovely life for a little while. Overcoming his family's bad reputation, he made a life for himself in Certain. He was married with children and a figure of respect in his church, but desperate times called for desperate measures and a terrible tragedy was the result. Now widowed and exiled with his children along the wily run of the Hell for Certain Creek, Daniel’s life is reduced to secrets and gossip. He’s all but convinced himself that he deserves his lonely life. It will take the powerful influence of love not only to change Daniel’s mind about himself but to convince his estranged family and the whole town as well that second chances are worth taking. Mattie might need to learn that lesson, too. Can one librarian with a saddlebag full of books make people see the difference between fact and fiction? Mattie loves a good story, and this may be her best one yet.
Willoughby-Burle (The Year of Thorns and Honey) highlights both the despair and the joy of simple pleasures, set against Depression-era Kentucky. When Mattie Mobley leaves her home and life of privilege behind in North Carolina to volunteer at the Works Progress Administration library in Certain, Kentucky, she’s quickly swept into the secrets of the rural town. The library, a converted church, has a murky past tied to widower Daniel Barrett—nicknamed a “grizzly bear” by town residents. Mattie takes on the responsibility of delivering books to Daniel’s home outside of the town, to ensure his children continue reading, and despite his rude demeanor, the two grow closer, and Mattie begins falling for him.

Willoughby-Burle’s lyrical writing propels the novel, its depictions of rural Kentucky’s idyllic beauty haunted by the poverty of the Great Depression. As Mattie’s character gradually develops, Willoughby-Burle focuses on the contrast between her life in North Carolina and in Certain, skillfully capturing Mattie’s charitable nature and genuine quest to help those less fortunate. When Mattie learns the real reason for Daniel’s behavior, she’s able to see the man underneath the gruff appearance and discovers his immense capacity for caring for others, sparking her determination to convince Daniel he must accept his past difficulties and take a chance at reestablishing his fractured relationships with town residents.

Mattie and Daniel’s romance develops simultaneously alongside the mystery behind Daniel’s fall from grace and self-imposed exile from Certain. As Willoughby-Burle reveals the backstory behind the death of Daniel’s wife and why the church—often the center of small southern towns in the Depression era—became a library, she illuminates the contentious relationships and misunderstandings between the town residents, and readers will be drawn to the connection between Mattie’s arrival as a well-to-do outsider and the community’s struggle to heal old wounds. Through it all, Willoughby-Burle never loses focus on Mattie’s generous spirit and the satisfaction she gains through her work.

Takeaway: A young woman volunteering as a librarian inDepression-era Kentucky finds unexpected love.

Great for fans of: Kristin Hannah’s The Four Winds, Mary Monroe’s Empty Vows

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A