Dirges Of The Still Waters

Young Adult - Coming of Age
330 Pages
Reviewed on 05/16/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite

Dirges of The Still Waters by James W. Durrah is the story of a young girl who wants nothing more than to learn to write. Vadeedee lives in a remote area in the mountains of Appalachia. Her life is as simple and boring as you can imagine. The only good thing in her life is the poetry she creates in her mind and saves it all there. Her life would be brilliant if only she could learn to read and write, but the only “school” closest to her is in a village called Aladdin that is dominated by white people. To make matters worse, she likes a boy called Simon who thinks she is too weird. Respite comes in the form of Lynn Cutter. She teaches Vadeedee to read and write and helps her come out of her shell. She also offers to take Vadeedee away from there, but at what price? What does she get from this?

I’m a huge fan of Toni Morrison and she has set standards for strong and powerful black protagonists incredibly high. Author James W. Durrah has done a great job at making Vadeedee on a par with Sula, Sethe, Violet, and Bride. Vadeedee is one of those characters that get into the minds of readers and stay there. She is just 15 years of age yet she is smart beyond her years. Her relationship with her mother is very relatable, but so is her thirst to be someone she can be proud of. Lynn provided tension to the plot while also making it more interesting. I really enjoyed the narrative and the pace of the story. Vadeedee’s development was great; her ability to grow under those circumstances was commendable and the way the author handled the story was incredible. I really enjoyed this book.

K.C. Finn

Dirges Of The Still Waters is a work of fiction in the coming of age sub-genre and was penned by author James W. Durrah. Though the story follows a young adult protagonist, there is some mature content in terms of language usage and sexual themes, and the story would be more suited to the mature end of the YA spectrum and adult readers. Our protagonist is Vadeedee, aged 15 at the novel’s opening and living in a tiny village called Aladdin, in Appalachia. When an educated city slicker from New York arrives and takes a special interest in this illiterate would-be poet, so begins a weaving and emotive tale of the hard knocks that come with growing up.

Author James W. Durrah has crafted a compelling portrait of hardship and spirit in this deeply involved and atmospheric plot. The character creation and dedication to the unique development of Vadeedee is a standout feature of the work, as we get to know this obscure girl who wants a shot at the big wide world and lives with poems in her heart. The family history and history of the village of Aladdin was well described and interesting to recount, though it does make the opening of the novel a little slow. Readers who stick with it will find surprising and sharp twists later on in the plotline and overall Dirges Of The Still Waters becomes a highly emotive read with many a shock in store. I would certainly recommend it for fans of high drama, cultural and racial issues.

Jamie Michele

Dirges of the Still Waters by James W Durrah is a coming of age Southern novel set in the fictional village of Aladdin in the backwoods of the Appalachian Mountains. The book begins with the backstory of the village and its inhabitants, providing a view into the history and culture of a pre and post-slavery network of homesteads that create a diverse, but yet still largely segregated society. From the account rises a young protagonist named Vadeedee, a prodigy of verse who happens to also be wholly illiterate, retaining her work in the recesses of her mind with an almost hyperthymesian capacity. The two things she loves most outside of her poetry are the nature that surrounds the village and a boy named Simon, the latter which she initially tries to brush aside with plans of her poetry getting herself and her mother off the mountain.

Dirges of the Still Waters is a provocative piece of fiction that encompasses much of the stereotypical folklore that Southern literature allocates to the people of Appalachia. James W Durrah writes within the story themes of illiteracy, racism, and incest, as well as the traditions his characters cling to, whether by virtue or design. Whether or not the depiction of Appalachian culture is true, I cannot say. I simply do not know. What I do know is that wherever the meter of reality falls, Durrah's characters—Vadeedee and Lucy Cutter in particular—feel genuine and authentic. For me, the highlight of this book is the dialogue, which is written phonetically to an incredibly lifelike standard. The narrative sometimes wavers into the outrageous and its editing could be a bit tighter, but overall this book kept me well entertained.