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On Agate Hill: A Novel | [Lee Smith]

On Agate Hill: A Novel

Orphaned when her father dies in the Civil War, Molly Petree is taken in by Uncle Junius on his Agate Hill plantation. But the terminally ill Junius is manipulated into marriage by his housekeeper, Selena, who inherits Agate Hill upon his death. Neglected and abused under Selena's watch, Molly escapes to a better life with help from her father's closest battlefield companion. But as she grows into a refined, educated woman, Molly remains haunted by tragedy.
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Publisher's Summary

Award-winning, best-selling author Lee Smith is among the most authentic voices of the South and has been hailed as one of America's most accomplished authors. In this rich and bittersweet tale, she follows the shifting fortunes of a young North Carolina girl whose life is shattered by the Civil War.

Orphaned when her father falls in battle, Molly Petree is taken in by Uncle Junius on his Agate Hill plantation. But the terminally ill Junius is manipulated into marriage by his housekeeper, Selena, who inherits Agate Hill upon his death. Neglected and abused under Selena's watch, Molly escapes to a better life with help from her father's closest battlefield companion, Simon Black. But as she grows into a refined, educated woman, Molly remains haunted by tragedy.

Told from the perspectives of several of its colorful characters, On Agate Hill is the literary equivalent of an heirloom quilt, and one of Smith's finest achievements.

©2006 Lee Smith; (P)2006 Recorded Books LLC

What the Critics Say

"Smith brings to [her work] an ear for speech and voice that most other writers can only envy." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Set among the ashes of the Civil War, Lee Smith's new novel brings a dead world blazingly to life....Smith, who is a subtly intrepid and challenging storyteller, never allows her narrative to slip into kitsch, stereotype or melodrama." (Washington Post's Book World)
"An authentic American saga, bittersweet as an Appalachian ballad, peopled with wonderfully vivid characters, so brilliantly constructed we never even notice the quilt-like artfulness of its design. (Kirkus Reviews)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (109 )
5 star
 (39)
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3 star
 (26)
2 star
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3.7 (32 )
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Story
3.9 (33 )
5 star
 (13)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Mary Canby, OR, USA 03-20-07
    Mary Canby, OR, USA 03-20-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    27
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    48
    15
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    "engrossing"

    I could not put this down, to my husband's regret. Having never read Lee Smith before I went into this with hesitation. Her vehicle of story telling (documents) was ingenious. I found this to be a wonderful story with great character voices reading the material. And the music, all placed in appropriate areas, to be an welcomed and natural addition to the storyline.
    Well Done Ms Smith.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bruce Fairview, NC, United States 05-03-08
    Bruce Fairview, NC, United States 05-03-08 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    47
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    48
    10
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    "New Southern classic"

    Move over Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner, there's a new girl on the block. Beautifully conceived and written as a series of documents (diaries, letters, legal documents, etc.), the novel is here wonderfully recreated by a diverse cast of voices. You have to get used to the idea that the book will flow from place to place, rather like most people's lives, rather than setting up a singular plot and resolving it, and you will have to tolerate a n aggravating excess of infant mortality, but if you can get past those hazards you'll find a wonderful portrait of a certain time and place, with rich characters and powerful emotions. Ought to be in college literature classes, and on teenage girls' nightstands, both.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon West Monroe, LA, United States 12-18-09
    Sharon West Monroe, LA, United States 12-18-09 Member Since 2009

    Humanitarian Aid Worker living in Central Asia.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    49
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    "Interesting Look into post-Civil War America"

    This book was neither great nor bad. Just a nice listen. The narrators were good and though the story is told in many persons, it did not become confusing. The most interesting part of the book to me was how the different levels of society lived during Reconstruction. There was no glamour given to life before the war on a plantation nor was there the melodramatic tedium of reminiscing of the "good old days" in Dixie.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandra L. Jacob US 10-13-09
    Sandra L. Jacob US 10-13-09 Member Since 2008

    Sleo

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    45
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    "Absolutely wrenching and beautiful"

    I had the opportunity to meet Lee Smith in a writer's workshop years ago. I found her delightful, down to earth, honest. I've loved her books for years but hadn't read one in a while. When this one was available on a special offer, I snatched it up. At first, I wasn't too sure I was going to get into it, but as it winds its way through the life of Molly Petrie, I was caught up and ultimately riveted. I was sobbing in my car at one point, deep wrenching sobs. The mixture of sadness, poignancy, wit, beauty, and honesty is a beautiful thing to savor. I highly, highly recommend it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anna Atlanta, GA, USA 10-07-09
    Anna Atlanta, GA, USA 10-07-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    "Wonderful book and narration"

    I have read all of Lee Smith's books. This one is among my favorites. The voices of the characters in this audiobook were just perfect, and kept me gripped. If you like On Agate Hill, try Fair and Tender Ladies next.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephanie Paintsville, KY, USA 11-08-07
    Stephanie Paintsville, KY, USA 11-08-07 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
    ratings
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    6
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    "A sad, but beautiful journey"

    This was a powerful, beautiful, heartbreaking, happy, rich and full journey. Molly's story is one that will touch the heart and soul of anyone who reads/hears it and will have you cheering for her from start to finish. Lee Smith is a master and this is most certainly in her top 5!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mary j aboughadareh Reston, VA USA 09-04-07
    mary j aboughadareh Reston, VA USA 09-04-07 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    186
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    343
    89
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    12
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    Overall
    "Good story"

    It could have had a little more history in it, but the story was good enough I could look over it. It had a few little twists that made it stand out.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pam Wolle Battle Ground WA 03-16-07
    Pam Wolle Battle Ground WA 03-16-07 Listener Since 2003

    Make mine a Draft

    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
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    6
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    "Authentic Southern Tale"

    If you want to know some of the unique nuances of Southern Culture, you can trust Lee Smith to deliver. So many details are captured and woven perfectly into a truly beliveable story. Mollys ability to survive and perservere makes me more appreciative of my own life. I love reading a good southern novel that can take me back to the South I know. The soft musical ending helps to ease you out of that time and back into the present. I would love to meet Lee Smith and spend an afternoon on the porch with a pitcher of "Sweet Tea" and sharing stories.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    roxann Olathe, KS, United States 12-20-11
    roxann Olathe, KS, United States 12-20-11

    family tree buff

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    "Beautifully read"
    Would you listen to On Agate Hill again? Why?

    I'm not one for listening to books twice - so no.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The character development. I knew those characters.


    Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

    Molly, of course.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, not really.


    Any additional comments?

    I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caryl SPRING VALLEY, MN, United States 01-21-10
    Caryl SPRING VALLEY, MN, United States 01-21-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    28
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    265
    41
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    "Why audio books are special"

    This is a great word illustrated story. Believable, rich in characters and not the usual progression of telling a long life story. Wonderful use of music, making this a worthy best of Audible award in my opinion.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Rebecca
    Melton Mowbray, United Kingdom
    7/11/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "This Book Is Just Superb You Have To Listen"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this book to anyone as it is a pure joy to listen to


    What was one of the most memorable moments of On Agate Hill?

    The strength and the Joy of Molly despite all the hardship and sadness she endured


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    The sheer perfection


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    It was hard to stop listening but I needed to savour it in chunks


    Any additional comments?

    This book is about dealing with deep deep grief and doing more than surviving. It is so very well written. It is in my top ten of best books

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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