by Silas House
On New Year's Day, Anneth Sizemore decides it is time to leave her husband. With her three-year-old son, Clay, in tow, she heads for her hometown in the Appalachian Mountains. Along the way, she dies suddenly, leaving Clay alone and without a family. As an adult, Clay Sizemore is a Kentucky coal miner in love with his town but unsure of his place within it. He finds his family in the townspeople. Together, they help Clay fashion a quilt of a life from what treasured pieces surround him. In the great Southern tradition, Silas House has written a novel that will warm readers' hearts and charm their souls.
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1. When Clay told his Aunt Easter he was moving out of her house, she cried until her
eyes were red and swollen. She tells Clay that a family should live right together. Does
Clay's tight-knit, extended family enable or hinder his search for his mother, Anneth, and
his quest for meaning in his life? Discuss how your own experiences within an extended
family relate to Clay's.
2. How does the Pentecostal religion affect Clay Sizemore's life? What influences have
the Free Creek Pentecostal Church had on Clay? Give examples of how Clay both abides by
and rebels against the church's teachings. How does the Pentecostal faith compare to your
own religious experiences?
3. Discuss the author's use of dialect in this story. What words or phrases spoken by
the characters were unfamiliar to you? How do the characters' speaking styles affect your
interpretation of the story? What do you learn about the characters by the way they talk?
4. Discuss how music is used throughout the novel. Are you able to identify with the
musicians and/or songs that are referenced? What do the various musical choices say about
the characters in the novel?
5. What does Alma's fiddle and her style of music signify for you? Does the fiddle
serve as a larger metaphor in the story?
6. What role does nature and the Appalachian landscape play in Clay's Quilt?
7. Clay's Uncle Paul, the quilter in this story, feels geography and history beneath
his fingertips while searching for fabric to use in a quilt. What does this mean? How does
the quilt work as a symbol in this story? What are your own experiences with family
8. What is your reaction to Easter's second sight, or her ability to foresee the
future? Is it a blessing or a curse? Have you ever known anyone who had visions such as
Easter? Do Easter's visions allow the reader to have a second sight as well?
9. Explain the relationship between Clay and Cake. Are they just drinking buddies?
10. What purpose does Anneth's letter to Clay serve in the novel?
11. What does the title of the second part of the novel, Flying Bird, mean to you?
12. If home is a dominant theme in this story, what happens to the plot, the
characters, and the tone of the story when Alma and Clay leave the mountains of eastern
Kentucky and travel to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina?
13. Compare and contrast the rituals of Appalachian weddings and funerals in Clay's
Quilt to your own experiences.
14. Does it seem incongruent or troubling to you that many of the characters, so deeply
rooted in family tradition and religion, also participate in a lifestyle of drinking, drug
use, and domestic violence? Why or why not? What does the author achieve by juxtaposing
sacred and secular behaviors throughout the story?
15. With which character(s) do you most closely identify? Why?
16. Discuss the perceptions your reading group has about Appalachian people in general.
Does this novel alter your no-tions about contemporary life in the Appalachian mountains
of Kentucky? In what ways?
17. Has your group read other novels set in Appalachia or about Appalachian characters?
If so, compare and contrast those novels to Clay's Quilt.
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"A long love poem to the hills of Kentucky. It flows with Appalachian music, religion, and that certain knowledge that your people will always hold you close. . . . Like the finely stitched quilts that Clay’s Uncle Paul labors over, the author sews a flawless seam of folks who love their home and each other."
"Unpretentious and clear-eyed . . . A tale whose joys are as legitimate as its sorrows."
The Roanoke Times
"Compelling . . . Despite hardships, again and again the family and the land assert their claim on these characters, and on the reader. . . . House knows what’s important and reminds us of the values of family and home, love and loyalty."
The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Here is life in the hills as we enter the twenty-first century–the love of the land, the fierce loyalty to family, the church, substance abuse, and violence. . . . Silas House writes from deep within the culture and presents his world without apology or gloss."