BookBrowse Reviews If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Discuss |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

If the Creek Don't Rise

by Leah Weiss

If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss X
If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Paperback:
    Aug 2017, 320 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Tomp
Buy This Book



If the Creek Don't Rise is a bold debut about a dusty, desperate town finding the inner strength it needs to outrun its demons.

A chorus of voices tells this contemporary story from the mountain town of Baines Creek, North Carolina. Sadie Blue, a young pregnant teen, opens the novel in the midst of a beating by her moonshiner husband, Roy Tupkin. From the opening lines, life looks grim for Sadie, and, as it turns out, for many of Baines Creek's inhabitants.

As we hear from various members of this rough and gritty town, we see Sadie's situation through different perspectives. Her grandmother, Gladys, is a hard and gruff woman, due to a rough marriage and life much like the one Sadie seems destined for. Sadie's aunt Marris has a brighter perspective, though she too has experienced losses of her own. The town preacher, Eli Perkins, has seen Sadie's predicament too many times to be shocked, but he has his hopes set on the new schoolteacher, Kate Shaw, making a difference. Facing a daunting challenge, Kate is surprised to discover she feels at home here, despite the uncertain reception she receives from a community not used to outsiders.

Kate serves as a catalyst in Sadie's life. First, she begins teaching her to read and then asks for Sadie's help in the humble classroom. In a later chapter, Kate is there to help the medicine woman Birdie Rocas care for the teen after a particularly injurious beating from Roy. That experience spurs Sadie into action. Bolstered by her dead father's spirit and the song lyrics of Loretta Lynn, she is determined to change her fate.

Sadie's troubled relationship with Roy serves as the plotline, but it's the varying characters, each with his or her own needs and desires, that bring this small town to life. Their care and concern for Sadie speaks to her appeal, and the warmth of this town despite the hardships faced on a daily basis.The youngest, and most charming narrator is Tattler Swan, the medicine woman's assistant and fellow ginseng hunter. In addition to Sadie's kind-hearted supporters, we also see the darker underbelly of this place when we hear from the preacher's bitter and small-minded sister, Prudence, as well as the evil Roy and his moonshiner partner, Billy.

For readers of Appalachian literature, the characters here will be familiar, perhaps even stereotypical. Although there is authenticity; in my mind, their representations are of limited scope. As someone who has lived in Appalachia, I would have liked to see some of these common stereotypes to surprise me in some small way instead of simply filling their expected roles in the community.

Athough the message seems to be that the outsider, teacher Kate, incited change within this town, that idea was dropped toward the end, when the novel narrates Roy and Billy's story. They are not influenced by the new teacher—or even by the changes occurring within their community. In these chapters, even though Sadie is hinted at in the background, her story is not woven in as fully as I would have liked, which is surprising especially seeing as Sadie is the focal point at the novel's beginning.

Appalachian life is foreign even to most Americans. In many ways, it's easy to think the people of these mountains don't have much in common with the rest of the country. I worry that the novel's conclusion might leave readers' prejudices and stereotypes intact, rather than creating an appreciation and respect for a different pace of life while seeing commonalities in our humanity. That being said, the novel's clear and evocative prose ultimately creates a portrait of a town both beautiful and harsh. If the Creek Don't Rise transports readers to a specific time and place, where they can spend time with a variety of characters.

Reviewed by Sarah Tomp

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in September 2017, and has been updated for the December 2017 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 12 months or $12 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Moonshine Mania

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.25 per month.

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: We Had to Remove This Post
    We Had to Remove This Post
    by Hanna Bervoets
    It's not about money. Kayleigh, the protagonist and narrator of We Had to Remove This Post, a newly ...
  • Book Jacket: River of the Gods
    River of the Gods
    by Candice Millard
    The Nile River has provided vital resources for millennia, serving as a source of water, food and ...
  • Book Jacket: Horse
    by Geraldine Brooks
    Geraldine Brooks creates a powerful backstory for 19th-century thoroughbred racehorse Lexington, ...
  • Book Jacket: Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance
    Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance
    by Alison Espach
    Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance will make you ache for a loss you didn't experience as you relate...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
by Maggie O'Farrell
"Of all the stories...about Shakespeare’s life, [Hamnet] is so gorgeously written that it transports you."
The Boston Globe

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Good Husbands
    by Cate Ray

    Three wives, one letter, and an explosive secret that will change everything.
    He said, she said. Who do you believe?

  • Book Jacket

    Jackie & Me
    by Louis Bayard

    Master storyteller Louis Bayard delivers a surprising portrait of a young Jackie Kennedy as we've never seen her before.

Win This Book!
Win Where the Crawdads Sing

Win a signed copy of Where the Crawdads Sing

In celebration of the movie release on July 15, we have three signed copies to give away.



Solve this clue:

T O Thing W H T F I F I

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.