The mountain is a lonely place. Welcome to Sourwood, a small Kentucky town inhabited by men and women unique and yet eerily familiar. Among its joyful and tragic citizens we meet the crafty, spirited Caleb and his curious younger brother; Pearl, a suspected witch, and her sheltered daughter, Thanie; superstitious Eli; and the doomed orphan Girty. In Sourwood, the mountain is both a keeper of secrets and an imposing, isolating presence, shaping the lives of all who live in its shadow.
Strong in both the voice and sensibilities of Appalachia, the stories in Miss America Kissed Caleb are at turns heartbreaking and hilarious. In the title story, young Caleb turns over his hard-earned dime to the war effort when he receives a coaxing kiss from Miss America, who sweeps into Sourwood by train, "pretty as a night moth." Caleb and his brother share in the thrills and uncertainties of growing up, making an accidental visit to a brothel in "Fourth of July" and taming a "high society" pooch in "The Jimson Dog." These stories invoke a place and a time that have long passed -- a way of living nearly extinct -- yet the beauty of the language and the truth revealed in the characters' everyday lives continue to resonate with modern readers.
"Clark grew up poor in Cattlettsburg in the northeastern corner of Kentucky in the 1940s, and these stories reflect that environment unfailingly." -- Appalachian Heritage
"Memorable characters and a strong sense of the natural beauty surrounding Sourwood help explain why this place is obviously dear to the author's heart." -- Booklist
"A loving and poignant study of life in both the past and present." -- Bourbon (Paris, KY) Times
"Miss America Kissed Caleb is Billy C. Clark at his best with touches of O. Henry and James Still stirred in, and that's the highest compliment I can pay for a writer of short fiction. Clark's characters are growing up, noticing girls, changing from tadpoles to bullfrogs. Funny, bittersweet, bitter, even rowdy, and sometimes sentimental, the stories in this new collection are rife with the details of 1940s rural life and rich in characters who reflect their place and their time. Masterful as always, a storyteller who has perfected his craft, Billy C. Clark has done it again." -- Garry Barker, author of Notes From a Native Son
"Here in the new millennium is a writer whose original language, the language of frontier storytellers, is completely unspoiled...this language is pure American poetry." -- Gurney Norman, author of Kinfolks and Divine Right's Trip
"Clark is a master storyteller; his tales have the staying power of myth.... His tales are timeless in the way they entertain us and in the messages they bring us." -- Journal of Appalachian Studies
"With his typical mastery, Billy C. Clark shows the reader an interesting array of characters in this small Kentucky town in the 1940s." -- Kentucky Monthly
"Clark is not a writer who leans on the all-too-familiar Appalachian stereotypes. His characters would still be fully rounded people, torn by the struggle between kindness and meanness, anywhere they lived." -- Lexington Herald-Leader
"Clark recreates in loving and authoritative detail the unwritten history of a rural mountain community. A first-rate collection of stories and sketches." -- Richard Taylor, former Kentucky Poet Laureate
"Clark is a master of the Southern tale.... Readers of all types, from all places, and of all ages can find something of value as Clark's prose pierces the differences that divide people as it touches readers' hearts." -- Union County (KY) Advocate