Invoking Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in her prologue Pamela Petro relates the possibility and consequence inherent in storytelling. She has taken her own personal pilgrimage, gathering segments of oral histories in the American South and the people who she meets that relate them. The heart of this audiobook is the vernacular of the people who inhabit the south and Janet Metzger captures this beautifully. She voices the author’s own narrative of her travels shifting as she goes to the tones of those she encounters and the stories that they hold dear. Petro supposes that we learn about a people from the themes that weave through their tales and the words they choose to pass them along. The American is truly a rich source, as you will hear in Sitting Up with the Dead.
Stories provide the connective tissue of the South. The intrepid Pamela Petro drives from the Carolinas to the Appalachians to the Atlantic seaboard, from Virginia's valleys to Louisiana's swamps to meet the mesmerizing guardians of its history: the storytellers, who often double as local, or national, treasures. A gifted listener, Petro records how stories originate as well as how they are passed down. She paints vivid portraits of the tellers while compiling tales about Jack the trickster, boo-hags and plat-eyes, ghosts, and singing turtles. The story of the South is not finished. Petro's revelatory investigation into its oral culture is as intoxicating as it is fun.
This is a slightly different review, as I'm the author of Sitting up with the Dead. But I wanted to take a public opportunity to thank Janet Metzger for bringing the book so vividly and variously to life! She reads it brilliantly. Because many of the oral storytellers' tales are transcribed in dialect, SUWTD can be a difficult book to read. Janet's performance, however, does away with this problem entirely, and it's a delight to listen to. So thank you, Janet, for making Jack and Taily Po, the plat eyes and haints, all come roaring to life! -- Pam
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