Summary and book reviews of Gap Creek by Robert Morgan

Gap Creek

by Robert C. Morgan

Gap Creek
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2000, 324 pages
    Oct 2000, 336 pages

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Book Summary

Set in the last years of the nineteenth century. Julie and Hank's new life in the valley of Gap Creek, in the Appalachian high country, is more complicated than the couple ever imagined.

There is a most unusual woman living in Gap Creek. Julie Harmon works hard, "hard as a man," they say, so hard that at times she's not sure she can stop. People depend on her to slaughter the hogs and nurse the dying. People are weak, and there is so much to do. She is just a teenager when her little brother dies in her arms. That same year she marries and moves down into the valley where floods and fire and visions visit themselves on her, and con men and drunks and lawyers come calling.

Julie and her husband discover that the modern world is complex and that it grinds ever on without pause or concern for their hard work. To survive, they must find out whether love can keep chaos and madness at bay.

Robert Morgan's latest novel, Gap Creek, returns his readers to the vivid world of the Appalachian high country. Julie and Hank's new life in the valley of Gap Creek in the last years of the nineteenth century is more complicated than the couple ever imagined. Sometimes it's hard to tell what to fear most--the fires and floods or the flesh-and-blood grifters, drunks, and busybodies who insinuate themselves into their new lives. Their struggles with nature, with work, with the changing century, and with their disappointments and triumphs make this a riveting follow-up to Morgan's acclaimed novel, The Truest Pleasure.

"Set the canner further back on the stove," Ma Richards said. All the good feeling from the dinner table was gone from her voice.

"I’ve got to leave room to set the other one on," I said.

"You won’t need room if that tips over on you," Ma snapped. She had changed back to her old self.

Instead of answering I started carving up more fat at the table. I sliced twenty times this way and twenty times crossways. The fat sliced easy as clotted cream or thick jelly. My left hand was so slick with grease I couldn’t pick up anything but the blocks of fat. I raked the knife across the board harder than I needed to, to show how determined I was to get the job done and ignore Ma.

There was a little blood on the fat and on the board also, and I hardly noticed when I felt a nip at the end of my middle finger as I held a slab down to slice it. But when I saw the bright blood on the white fat I knowed I’d cut myself. A drop fell from the end of my finger, and then ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Julie is only in her teens when the novel opens, yet she has already learned to face life's hardships with a resiliency that is remarkable in one so young. We think of adolescence as a time of rebellion, yet Julie offers very little resistance to anything Mama and Papa tell her to do. Why do you think she is so accepting of her role? Sometimes Julie inwardly simmers at what she is asked to do, "but I didn't have any choice," she says. Is that true? What choices does she have?

  2. Even though two of her sisters are older than she is, Julie is the one everyone counts on. "Everything that was hard fell to me, and everything that nobody else wanted to do fell to me." Why? What is the author saying about Julie? About those who depend ...
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Media Reviews

The New York Times Book Review

Morgan is among the relatively few American writers who write about work knowledgeably, and as if it really matters. . . . You begin to feel, as you sometimes do when reading Cormac McCarthy's or Harry Crews' early novels, that the author has been typing with blood on his hands and a good deal of it has rubbed off onto your shirtsleeves. . . .his stripped-down and almost primitive sentences burn with the raw, lonesome pathos of Hank William's best songs.

The Boston Book Review

Morgan writes with an authority usually associated with the great novelists of the last century.


Although Morgan, author of The Truest Pleasure (1995), has written better novels, even readers numbed by the seemingly endless series of disasters will respect Julie's strength of character and wish her well.

Kirkus Reviews

An ideal example of a regional tale: free of local color, respectful of his people, entirely free of condescension, Morgan offers a gliding, unhurried story of sufferings and hope that is simple and ragged, but never seems alien. This couples relentless misfortunes are given no more drama than they need, and all the compassion they deserve.

Reader Reviews


Despite Catastrophes
Julie's character is the story, while she is not well-educated, her fine intelligence is given justice in her narrating voice. Morgan has the ability to capture emotions and mental images over and over with Julie's voice. The story is a snapshot ...   Read More


nice work
I think the book was a great job, people really lived that way so I loved how Julie explained everything so simply.

katie Gilbert

A pleasing Read
I enjoyed this book alot. I could really relate to the girl in the book..average physique average intelligence average everything! AHH I LOVED IT!!!!:)

Andrea Mathers

Gap Creek is one of the best novels i have ever read! This book is captures your attention from the start and holds it until the very last word. The story is simple and pure..i would highly reccomend it for reading newcomers.

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