I just got done with a great book called Spencer’s Mountain written by Earl Hamner, Jr. Now, I know this is a blog about hiking and New Hampshire…and anything related. However, this book was not about either of those things. Instead, it was about a family trying to make ends meet during the Great Depression and finding more value in their family’s love than any money could hold. It also has the word “mountain” in the title, so it is somewhat relevant, right? I know…it’s a stretch.
It takes place in the small town of New Dominion, Virginia at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hamner introduces the reader to a large family that is struggling through the Great Depression back in the 1930’s. The father, Clay Spencer, who the book is mainly about, is a good hearted man that most everyone in the community enjoys the company of. He’s painted to be a fair man who loves his wife and children dearly and will do anything to ensure that they get the best opportunities that life has to offer, even in these tough times.
The book starts off with a family gathering and does a great job of outlining all the characters and explaining their way of life. One of the major focuses of the book is how Clay had always dreamed of building a beautiful house using his own two hands, for his wife and kids on the top of Spencer’s Mountain. It seems there is always an event or hindrance as to why this goal always gets pushed out of reach.
Hamner also spends a lot of time on the eldest son’s character, Clay-Boy. In the book, he’s just graduated from high school and his teacher and minister have recognized him to be extremely smart for growing up in this mill town. They explain to his parents how great it would be for him to go to college and Clay does everything he can to ensure that this happens. By the end, Clay’s dream of building his house on the beautiful mountain and ensuring his son gets his chance at a college education collide.
This book was written in 1961 and was loosely based on Earl Hamner’s own experiences growing up. This novel was later made into a movie starring Henry Fonda, but they changed a lot of the great elements of the book such as the time period and setting. A sequel to this book, The Homecoming, was later written about the Spencers and adapted into a TV movie. This TV movie then spun-off to the hit TV show, The Waltons. Of course, many of the names and the number of kids were changed for the TV show. I would absolutely say, if you enjoyed The Waltons, you would love the book Spencer’s Mountain. There is a limited quantity still left on Amazon…get it now while you can!
Also, check out Earl Hamner, Jr.’s blog, You, Me and the Lamp Post, which he updates about once a month. He typically writes about stories of his childhood, which are fun to read.
Overall, I give this book two thumbs up. I read a lot of non-fiction type books on the mountains, expeditions, and even World War II. This is the first novel I have read in many years. It was pretty easy reading (has to be for me). I enjoyed it and I believe you will too.