Debut memoir sparkles with descriptions of Appalachian life

Fred Pace

February 5, 2014

In her gripping memoir, “A Willful Child” (published by AuthorHouse), author Janet Steele Holloway paints a profound portrait of family dynamics in 1940s and ‘50s West Virginia.

Set in Appalachia, the story takes place in an area made historic by the Hatfield clan.

“My grandmother, Granny Bill, bought property from the Hatfields and established a beer-garden, The Pioneer, on the land,” Holloway recalls. “As a child, I saw and learned to accept people as they were, whether they were drunk, prostitutes or grifters.”

This hodgepodge of people populate “A Willful Child,” as Holloway delivers lush, candid descriptions of her eclectic family, from the controlling mother who frequently leaves her family in search of love to her bootlegging grandmother trying to keep the family together. At the heart of the narrative is Holloway’s own story, that of a young Appalachian girl struggling against her parents’ alcoholism and mental illness to create the life she envisions beyond the mountains and outside the family.

“Janet Steele Holloway’s debut is as dazzling as the West Virginia countryside she describes. She emerges as a young woman ready for anything. This memoir is poignant, brutal, funny, inspired,” said Neil Chethik, author of “FatherLoss.”

“‘A Willful Child’ shows us how a girl-becoming-a-woman gathers courage, confidence, and wisdom to weave a self from the pieces and places of a fragmented life,” Said Leatha Kendrick, author of “Second Opinion.”

Holloway hopes her story inspires others in similar circumstances. “One can survive incredible odds and not only survive, but thrive,” she stresses. “I hope readers walk away with an understanding of the importance of saying ‘yes’ to opportunities, even if it means going against tradition and family mores.”

“A Willful Child” is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.