Touched by Tennessee by Madelyn Rohrer
Madelyn Rohrer’s Touched by Tennessee is a collection of eight short nonfiction stories that are all somehow connected to Tennessee. The stories have varied subjects. First, an invasive plant species–from its introduction to an interesting solution involving herds of goats and guard dogs. Second, the worst earthquake in this country’s history and how it lead to the creation of the scenic Reelfoot State Park. Third, a suspenseful tale of familial love and the bond between parents and their adopted son. Fourth, a song about a little, brown church, born out of one man’s vision and made a reality by another man. Fifth, a family business that has survived decades and become a pillar of the community. Sixth, a little girl with a passion for cars and a guardian angel. Seventh, another invasive species, this time wild hogs, brought to the U.S. from Spain by Hernando de Soto. Eighth, an impressive woman–the first female doctor in the U.S. Army and the first U.S. female prisoner of war, as well as the only female recipient of the Medal of Honor.
Although each story has a worthy subject, they do not have a strong unifying thread and would have benefited from either more careful curation or perhaps a more narrow subject. As it is, it is unclear as to what an ideal audience for this book would be. The author did an excellent job of communicating with primary sources, including families of the historical figures. However, some of the secondary sources could have been stronger; for instance, Wikipedia is not necessarily reliable. Rohrer’s passion for oral storytelling is also evident; these stories read much like the reminiscences of older relatives due to their frequent tangents and how they pass down the details of events that may not have changed the world, but certainly changed lives.
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