3 reviews

Cold Rock River
by J. L. Miles

Published: 2006-09-01
Hardcover : 320 pages
57 members reading this now
12 clubs reading this now
14 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 3 members
In 1963 rural Georgia, with the Vietnam War cranking up, pregnant seventeen-year-old Adie Jenkins discovers the diary of pregnant seventeen-year-old Tempe Jordan, a slave girl, begun as the Civil War was winding down. Adie is haunted by the memory of her dead sister; Tempe is overcome ...
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In 1963 rural Georgia, with the Vietnam War cranking up, pregnant seventeen-year-old Adie Jenkins discovers the diary of pregnant seventeen-year-old Tempe Jordan, a slave girl, begun as the Civil War was winding down. Adie is haunted by the memory of her dead sister; Tempe is overcome with grief over the sale of her three children sired by her master.
Adie—married to Buck, her baby's skirt-chasing father—is unprepared for marriage and motherhood. She spends her days with her new baby, Grace Annie. Buck spends his with the conniving daughter of the man he works for. Adie welcomes the friendship of midwife Willa Mae Satterfield. Having grown close to her after Grace Annie's birth, Adie confides that her baby sister, Annie, survived choking on a jelly bean only to drown in Cold Rock River a few months later. Willa Mae replies, "My two little chillins Georgia and Calvin drowns in that river, too." What she won't say is how and why.
Adie takes refuge in Tempe's journal. It tells an amazing tale, but the further she reads, the more questions the diary raises in her mind. After "the freedom" comes, Tempe sets out to find her lost children and meets Tom Barber, another freed slave. Tom and Tempe marry and have one daughter, Heart. When Tom is killed in a drunken brawl, Tempe takes Heart and settles on a small patch of land in North Georgia.
There, Heart blossoms, eventually marrying and giving birth to Georgia and Calvin. Adie is filled with questions: Could Willa Mae be Heart? How—and why—did the children die? And is it possible that the man who now owns the house in which she lives is Willa Mae's grandson?
As Cold Rock River rushes to its surprising, shocking ending, questions of family, race, love, loss, and longing are loosed from the mysterious secrets that have been kept for too long. And the depth of the connection between the two women united by place and separated by race—and a century—is revealed.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.



I was five that spring Annie choked on a jelly bean. She was twenty months old—she wasn’t supposed to have any. Mama made that quite clear. Sadly, I wasn’t a child that minded well, so I gave Annie one anyway. I figured she ought to taste how good they were. I figured wrong. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the author:

1. Why did Adie let Buck lead her astray so easily when she had her dreams all laid out for her? Why did she allow him to continue his exploits with Imelda Jane during her pregnancy? Discuss the ways she first realizes she’s made a mistake marrying so young.

2. Adie’s older sisters Rebecca and Clarissa are fraternal twins. How are their personalities different? How are they similar?

3. Discuss the ways Annie’s death impacted each member of the family. Why did Adie keep what truly happened to Annie the day she drowned to herself all those years? Discuss the ways her life might have been different had she told. How did losing her sister at such an early age impact Adie?

4. Ruby dragged the girls from church to church. What was she in search of?

5. What role did Willa Mae play in helping Adie come to grips with the issues in her life? Why didn’t Adie find it strange that Willa Mae would go off on her own to Tybee Island and leave her mostly alone to fend for herself with Grace Annie? Discuss some of the reasons Willa Mae might have chosen to be absent in the picture.

6. Adie finds Murphy very appealing, and he’s nothing like Buck. Discuss the way this may have helped Adie see Buck in a different light.

7. How did Buck’s baby brother Andy’s death affect his maturation process? What impact did Austin’s beating have on Buck? Why didn’t Verna put Austin in an institution?

8. Buck’s father ran around on his mother for years but always came home. Why did he run off with Norma? Was she so different from all the others? Or was he running away from the situation at home?

9. What kept Tempe going in her fifteen-year search for her children? She not only survived the tragedies in her life, she triumphed over them. Why do you think she was able to enjoy her life, despite her sorrow? Discuss the ways it is important that all of us do the same.

10. What were Willa Mae’s fears if she exposed to Murphy the specifics of his birth? The early and middle ’60s were a turbulent and dangerous time for civil rights. How might Murphy’s life have changed had the town found out his true heritage? What about Adie and the children? How would their life have been impacted by it?

11. Fast forward ten years. Where do you see Adie and Murphy and the children? By then it would be the mid-’70s. What would the children be up to? Their likes, dislikes, talents, etc. Do you think Willa Mae would still be alive and well? Would Murphy and Adie have had children of their own? Would Willa Mae be able to claim them as her very own (grandchildren)? Would Clarissa have conquered her eating disorder? How about Rebecca? Would she be working on another husband?

12. Of all the characters, whose journey touches you the most and why? Which character (warts and all) was your favorite? Least favorite? Why?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

A Note from JL Miles for BookMovement members:

This book began as Adie’s journey. It wasn’t until I went to the library to do some research—and stumbled upon the slave narratives—that Tempe’s portion came to life. The complete collection, which includes over two thousand first-person accounts, is housed at The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Commissioned by President Roosevelt, they are as fascinating as they are poignant.

After seven months of carefully sifting through the vast material, Adie and Tempe’s parallel journey emerged. Henceforth, I came to think of Cold Rock River as Fried Green Tomatoes meets Cold Mountain.

It’s been said that life is like a patch-work quilt. It’s not over until the last stitch is put in place. Here are selected pieces of fabric that blanket Adie and Tempe’s lives, two young women who learned to treasure their joy in spite of their sorrow. May you discover what they did, that the joy of our journey is not in the destination; it’s in the moment at hand.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Didn't Engage Me"by susie c. (see profile) 11/15/09

the foreshading was "hit me over the head" predictable.

  "Cold Rock River"by Monica K. (see profile) 11/13/09

We really enjoyed the story of Adie, and especially Tempe's, triumphs through difficult life events. Tempe's optimism and perseverance were inspiring, and J.L. Miles often left you on the edge of your... (read more)

  "Great book"by Debra M. (see profile) 09/18/09

  "Cold Rock River"by Emily K. (see profile) 06/14/09

This book had a lot of unexpected twists and turns and was a fun book to discuss.

  "An easy read but it was annoying at times because of the way the femaile sin the book acted."by Jan F. (see profile) 04/17/09

Book was okay but I wanted to slap Adie up the side of the head for not kicking out Buck. I know it was taking place in the 60s and 70s but the characters seemed so rural and unschooled and the women... (read more)

  "Entertaining yet Deep"by Carla W. (see profile) 04/17/09

I enjoyed Cold Rock River immensely. I was surprised at how the slave narration of Tempe kept me enthralled and wanting more information. It is hard to believe the things she wrote about in her diary actually... (read more)

  "Just wonderful!!"by Lois L. (see profile) 04/10/09

I got this book from the library and I can't say enough about it. I enjoyed every chapter. It is so well written and kept my interest to the very last page. Bravo!! If I still belonged to a book club I... (read more)

  "A page turner!"by Janet J. (see profile) 06/18/08

I highly recommend this book. It's very well written. It follows the lives of two women born a hundred years apart and had so many plot twists I couldn't put it down. I read the reviews on amazon.com before... (read more)

  "A wonderful book!!!"by Bridget M. (see profile) 06/18/08

I loved this book! I stayed up half the night. It makes me want to form a book club or something. Don't believe anything else you read. This book will keep you turning pages, that is for sure. And the... (read more)

  "Cold Rock River- good storyline"by Carmen S. (see profile) 06/11/08

Although we enjoyed the storyline of the book our group found the dialect to be somewhat implausible.

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