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Nowhere Else On Earth
by Josephine Humphreys

"Humphreys' latest novel-at once a brutal tale of the Civil War and subtle exploration of developing American identities-is an unusual sort of epic, the great sweep of history writ small. In 1864, Rhoda Strong is a teen-ager of mixed ancestry in Scuffletown, an Indian settlement on the Lumbee River, in North Carolina. As the town's inhabitants find themselves caught between marauding Union soldiers and Confederates attempting to conscript their children for labor, Rhoda falls in love with a local outlaw who is fighting to protect the community. Humphreys has always been a master of telling a larger story through a deceptively intimate narrative, and Rhoda's tale, with it clear, distinct voice, is not exception."



Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (1 of 2), Read 12 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, December 15, 2001 04:44 PM The community setting of this novel is one of the things that I find interesting. The community identity of Scuffletown is really marked by its lack of identity. Apparently Lumbee Indians, they are not recognized as such. A depressing, abysmal place, this Scuffletown. "No fate is sealed, there is another on the way as long as life continues," Rhoda says, but it surely seems that her fate is sealed in the form of being locked in this place. That was an aspect of this novel that puzzled me. "Get the hell outa there, Rhoda!" I wanted to say. But she doesn't even though given the opportunity. Perhaps this is simply another among the many commentaries on the necessary self-sufficiency and independence of the women in this novel--the fact that she doesn't run off with the man. Steve
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (2 of 2), Read 6 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, December 15, 2001 09:49 PM Steve, I really enjoyed this novel. I have spent some time wondering what kind of story it is. Is it primarily a civil war story, a story of the underprivileged, a love story, or just Rhoda's story? I guess it is all of the above, and I sure found Rhoda to be fascinating. Jane
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (3 of 7), Read 13 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Sunday, December 16, 2001 05:22 PM Yes, Jane, I found Rhoda fascinating, too. This is her story, it seems to me. To the extent that the Civil War forms part of the setting, this certainly is a different view of it from Scuffletown--a ragged, amorphous affair marked by stragglers and looters and the activities of the nefarious Home Guard. Steve
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (4 of 7), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, December 16, 2001 05:54 PM I'm on about page 227, at the spot where everything starts to go to hell in a hand basket, as my father used to say. Things are picking up, but the story is not as compelling as either Firemen's Fair or Rich in Love. Sometimes I think that authors who try their hand at historical fiction, after they have made their mark with more contemporary tales, have a tendency to try to cram in too much of their research. That can slow down the story. Ann
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (5 of 7), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Sunday, December 16, 2001 06:09 PM This is the first Humphreys book I have read, so I have nothing to compare it to. I enjoyed it very much. I'm from NC, but these people and their situations are entirely new to me. I loved the description of the Lowrie farm and its neatness. I can understand how Rhoda would aspire to that. I wish Catherine Hill would read it to give us her opinion of the historical accuracy. Sherry
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (6 of 7), Read 9 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Sunday, December 16, 2001 09:23 PM Sherry, I also liked the description of the Lowrie farm. And I loved the descriptions of life in a turpentine camp. I could just imagine how quickly those trees went up when Sherman marched through the area. He was certainly the angel of death, wasn't he? Steve, The Scuffletown boys seemed to be into survival. Since they were Union sympathizers, the local authorities thought nothing of murdering them. Think of what happened to the Lowrie nephews. I very much like all of the threads of this novel. Jane
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (7 of 7), Read 6 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, December 17, 2001 07:55 AM One of the things that amazed me was the spiriting away of young boys, practically children to work on the "dirt works." I just don't know very much history. Was that really done? Were they stolen because they were Indian or would the Confederates have stolen any available kid? Another thing, were they not allowed to have guns because they were Indians? It seemed like a catch-22 situation. They didn't have any real status, because they couldn't prove who they were, but at least they weren't forced to leave their land (such as it was). Another question, is there a theory that those folks are what became of the Lost Colony, or did Humphreys make that up? Sherry
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (8 of 9), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, December 17, 2001 10:25 AM I can't answer your last question specifically, Sherry. I do know that Rhoda Strong and Henry Lowrie, as well as many of the other characters, are historical figures. Josephine Humphreys claims that she based this novel to the greatest extent possible on historical fact and simply used her imagination to fill in the day to day details. I liked this: Scuffletown as a place was anchored but driftable and as an idea it had the floating nature of a dream. In either form it was hard for strangers to reach. Of course that still doesn't obviate my question. Why would anyone want to get there, and if one was already there, why wouldn't one want to get out when the opportunity presented itself? The power of community, I guess. Steve
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (9 of 9), Read 9 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, December 17, 2001 03:54 PM Rhoda said several times that the land was quite beautiful. That seem to be a strong draw for her. But if it had been me, I would have wondered about the possibilities of other beautiful places. Something to compare it to. I found this link, which I thought was interesting. Obviously, the Lost Colony idea wasn't something Humphreys made up. I found one web page which took it as a fact, and another that said it was just a remote theory. http://www.geocities.com/bigorrin/lumb.htm Sherry
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (10 of 13), Read 12 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, December 18, 2001 05:46 PM WARNING PLOT SPOILERS**** I finished this book today, and I am left with Steve's question. Why didn't Rhoda leave at the end? After all, she was living in a country where people pulled up stakes all the time and tried their luck in new places. I can only conclude that Rhoda really didn't want to be with Henry Lowrie that much. Even if that were true, I am surprised that she didn't want to give her children more opportunities by moving on to a different place. It seems that Rhoda in the novel was based on a real person who stayed put. Maybe the historical Rhoda wasn't as strong as this character is supposed to be. It is difficult for me to imagine such a strong an attachment to place, so perhaps the failure of imagination lies within me. Ann
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (11 of 13), Read 10 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2001 07:26 AM I'm not so sure that it was lack of strength of character that kept Rhoda where she was. There was something compelling, a voice in her heart, that told her she should stay. I think it may be a shortcoming of the book that that wasn't explored more. In fact I think it might have been easier for her to go with Henry. It wasn't easy to make a life for herself and her children with what she had. But think of what she would have had to give up, had she left -- her sense of identity, of belonging, of stewardship, and her great friend (I forgot her name). I think that she was the real "love" in her life. She was sexually drawn to Henry, but she felt at home with her friend. Sherry
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (12 of 13), Read 11 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2001 01:07 PM Sherry, Good point about the friend Margaret, Sherry. Ann
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (13 of 13), Read 11 times Conf: Reading List From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2001 01:25 PM I've still got about 20 pages left to go in this book, which I plan to polish off on my way home from work, so I can't comment on that. This book is reminding me a lot of Annie Dillard's The Living, which I read last year, I think. Both books are set in the 19th century, and involve poor, tightly woven communities set in the middle of woods, making their living from the trees. The Living is set in the Pacific Northwest and they work at lumberyards. I was pondering the title Nowhere Else on Earth. I see Scuffletown, or perhaps the land it is built on, as being almost like a character in this book. There's certainly more to it than a backdrop against which the events occur. Rho is extremely connected to the land (think of her lying face down with her arms outstretched embracing the earth and wanting to be buried in a cross shaped coffin so she can be buried in that posture). I think this has a lot to do with why she doesn't leave. Her very strong sense that she is a part of the place. I think this is a less common feeling today since we live in such a mobile society -- hopping around from one place to another for a job or just for a new view. Personally, I feel very attached to Boston as a city. From his posts here, I'd say Bob feels the same way about New York. It is more than just a location you live. It is a knowing a place deep down and just knowing it is where you belong -- or at least that it is very much a part of you. I'm trying to think of a better way to explain this feeling, but I think I won't say anything else until I actually finish the book! Karen
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (14 of 16), Read 20 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Thursday, December 27, 2001 10:12 AM I finished this book a week or so ago, wrote a note and then lost it as I was trying to post it and didn't have time to redo it. My memory is a bit less fresh now. However, one of the themes that kept recurring to me was that this group of people didn't fit in any cubbyhole. They weren't considered Indians and they weren't considered to be white. They had a greater connection to each other because there were so few of them and to Scuffletown as the one place in the world that belonged to them. There was a great emphasis on being proud of who they were and not letting others decide that being white was better. And, I think that's why Rhoda couldn't leave. Scuffletown was simply who she was and who her children were, no matter what the value system of the rest of the world might say. Earlier, someone posted a website which gave some of the historical basis for this novel and I really appreciated it. I kept wondering as I read if Henry was a real character and if this group was real. Barb
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (15 of 16), Read 10 times Conf: Reading List From: Brenda Barteck bbarteck@earthlink.net Date: Friday, December 28, 2001 10:45 PM Mmmm...my first time posting so don't be annoyed if I ask a question that seems out of place. Since no one else seems to have mentioned this yet, did anyone else's heart break when she let her man go? I didn't sense it as weakness, to me it was Rhoda at her strongest. She knew that her heart would ache for him every day, but she let him leave knowing that the only way to give her children their legacy (she makes the point over and over again that they don't have tangible riches, to me she was implying that the community was their wealth) yet ensure that her man was safe, was to send him away. She clearly realized she couldn't have both, and like so many woman seem to do, she purposefully chose her role of mother, caretaker of the family over her own selfish desires (be with him always...either there where he was clearly in danger and likely to die or elsewhere where her children would lose their birthright). I think the title of the book states the whole point...if the family was to remain healthy and "wealthy", she couldn't leave. She had to raise them in Scuffletown and send him away. Anywhere else they would have been poor (she makes the point that she is "useless") minorities in a time that was especially cruel to minorities; in Scuffletown they had history and community. The book makes the point that although outsiders saw Scuffletown as ugly or dismal, she never saw it as such. At any rate, that's what I took out of it, I'd be curious to hear from anyone who agrees or disagrees?
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (16 of 16), Read 1 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, December 29, 2001 12:41 AM Hi Brenda, welcome to Constant Reader. I enjoyed your summing up of Rhoda's motives. Ruth As a queen sits down, knowing that a chair will be there, Or a general raises his hand and is given the field glasses, Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind. Richard Wilbur Walking to Sleep
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (17 of 17), Read 6 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, December 29, 2001 08:06 AM Welcome, Brenda. I think you have a very good point. We often tend to judge books and motives of characters using contemporary circumstances, instead of putting them squarely in context. I'm sure you're right about the children. I hadn't thought of that. Why don't you go up to the conference "Welcome to WebBoard" and tell us a little something about yourself and how you found us. We love having new folks discover us. Sherry
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (18 of 18), Read 11 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, December 29, 2001 01:46 PM The vast majority of correspondents here never get annoyed with any postings by anyone, Brenda. I don't think you need be concerned about that anymore. And after all, it was I who posted the question about Rhoda's staying in Scuffletown in the first place. Your response is an excellent one. Rhoda's character is obviously a very strong one. She is certainly capable of making the calculated decision that you describe. I see now that this decision is entirely consistent with her character as portrayed. Steve
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (19 of 26), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, December 30, 2001 03:02 PM Brenda, you put into words exactly what I felt about Rhoda's motives when reading the book and tried to say (inadequately) earlier. Excellent presentation of the point. Wecome to Constant Reader! barb
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (20 of 26), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, January 03, 2002 05:40 PM Well, darn if I haven't had a heck of a time trying to find this novel. I have read two of her books before, something fireman something, and Dreams of Sleep. I can see why I couldn't find her new book in Canada, but I have traipsed around Washington and NYC and still no luck. But maybe tomorrow. I read Humphries quite a while ago, so I don't remember a lot of things...but with Dreams of Sleep, I remember it being "creepy". No not a bad work, not a Clive Barker scary, but...creepy. I remembered a mum throwing out little girls Barbie's and feeling sick about it. Anyway, I DID find a copy of this one, and in a feeble attempt to join this discussion, and try to catch up here is an excerpt... "As he pulls the big old Oldsmobile, a '76 Delta Royale, into the driveway he sees Beth and Marcy looking down at him from behind a column on the second-floor porch. Beth's thin arms reach through the balustrade, grabbing air, then they disappear. Were they reaching for him? In the kitchen, water is running, dishes clattering. The sound is a common enough sound for six o'clock, November, his house-but it nudges his memories of childhood the way a dog's bark at night or piano music through a window sets off a charge deep in his brain. A house with a woman and children in it at dusk is frightening to the man who draws near and hears the muffled voices, those dishes being washed. The pure domestic horr
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (21 of 26), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, January 03, 2002 05:42 PM oops, I am having trouble here, on this new computer...I keep cutting things off... that last sentence is supposed to say: "The pure domestic horror of it rings down his spine
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (22 of 26), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Friday, January 04, 2002 08:24 AM Candy, I'm surprised that you're having trouble finding Nowhere Else on Earth. Even one of our local small libraries had it. Barb
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (23 of 26), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, January 04, 2002 09:29 AM I know, I find it weird too. Now, in Canada, I have found a couple of her books, through the library years ago. Thats when I read Dreams of Sleep before. I thought she may have had a regional following when I couldn't find NEOE a while ago. I found one or two copies of DOS around Toronto, but since I had read it I didn't get them. I did pick up a copy of DOS the other day at The Strand...just to have something. I went to B&N at three locations here in NYC, and I went to a big store in Washington last week, can't remember the name and no copy there either. But guess what Barbara, of all things? My family announced yesterday we're driving to N.C. in a couple of days! What a coincidence as DOS is set there, and I bet I will find NEOE a book I can't seem to find no where else on earth. Remember I can't take it out of the library here, I am on the ro
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (24 of 26), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, January 04, 2002 09:31 AM oops, as I was saying, I am on the road and don't have a library card
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (25 of 26), Read 13 times Conf: Reading List From: Susan Pardue spardue@carolina.rr.com Date: Friday, January 04, 2002 10:01 AM Dreams of Sleep is set in South Carolina, actually, but you should be able to find Humphreys' books in North Carolina without any trouble. Where in NC are you coming to, Candy? I'm in Charlotte. Susan --- Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free. Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com). Version: 6.0.313 / Virus Database: 174 - Release Date: 1/2/02
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (26 of 26), Read 12 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, January 04, 2002 01:00 PM Y'all will recall that at the beginning of the topic "The Next Book - Nowhere Else on Earth," I cited Michael Upchurch's review. Upon further reflection, I agree with his primary criticism of this novel. While Rhoda herself is a fine creation with a distinctive voice, the secondary characters are a bit too flat. By that I mean (and he says) that the secondary characters are either too purely good or too purely villainous. They are stock players. My disappointment in that regard (at the risk of repeating myself) is heightened by my admiration of two other novels by Josephine Humphreys, Fireman's Fair and Rich in Love wherein many of the secondary characters have real depth. So once again, to anyone who was not completely taken with this particular novel, sometime in the future do give Josephine Humphreys another chance in the form of one of those other two. Steve WAL*MART Customer
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (27 of 27), Read 6 times Conf: Reading List From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, January 06, 2002 09:22 AM Thanks for mentioning The Fireman's Fair earlier, Steve. Just based on the original description of Nowhere Else on Earth, I decided it wasn't likely to be to my taste, so I picked up TFF instead and thoroughly enjoyed it. You're right about the secondary characters there... in particular, the parents, and Albert, although even small characters were drawn with plenty of detail (like Huong and Anna, who ran The Conch). Lynn
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (11 of 13), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Edward Houghton eddh@pacbell.net Date: Sunday, March 03, 2002 10:37 PM Thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a slice of the Civil War that I have never seen in a novel before. Were we supposed to be unsure if Rhoda and her kin were Indians or some off-shoot of English settlers that got separated from the rest? The doctor referred to a Roanoke settlement, didn't he? The thesis being that these people didn't have a language like other Indians, so maybe they had a different background. Food for thought I guess. I was really disappointed with Henry. Rhoda kept building him up in her narrative as a super bad guy of the Robin Hood type. His reputation went down hill with me when he let his father be shot, and he was near enough to do something about it. Having Rhoda with him didn't seem to me to be a very good or reasonable excuse. Also he never did in the guy who killed his father and threatened his mother. Why? In the end he turns out to be just another thief, and takes off for safe ground. Rhoda stays in her little community for better or worse. It seems like a dead end to me. Like some people here in L.A. who think they do more good by staying in the "old neighborhood". I don't think it works out, the neighborhood does them in, sooner or later. I think neighborhoods take on a character and you can play hell trying to change it. As we left Rhoda, her daughter was a moonshiner. Maybe that is a legacy, but there must have been something better in the outside world. EDD "If I could stir I could break a tree - I could break you." H.D
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (12 of 13), Read 5 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, March 04, 2002 07:07 AM Edd, I enjoyed your post. There are several websites about the Lumbee Indians. Here's a link to one of them: http://www.lumbee.org/history2.htm . Some people believe that they speak English because they merged with The Lost Colony, and other people say that's just a myth. Sherry
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (13 of 13), Read 2 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, March 04, 2002 09:35 AM Edd, I'm glad you enjoyed this book. Your views on Henry are interesting. You saw him as a Jesse James type, in other words. I thought the characterization of this "Indian" community was the best thing about the novel. The community did not belong either to the Indian or the white. About as alienated as one can get. No status at all. Steve
Topic: Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (7 of 7), Read 25 times Conf: Reading List From: Edward Houghton eddh@pacbell.net Date: Monday, March 04, 2002 03:52 PM SHERRY Thanks for the website. The important thing is can they put up a casino? EDD "Two girls discover the secret of life in a sudden line of poetry." DENISE LEVERTOV

 
Josephine Humphreys
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