Review – Knights of the Hill Country by Tim Tharp
Now I never been to Oklahoma, but I know that alot of my ancestors went that a way when they left what they called “those ole blackjack knolls of Caintucke.” When I found those old letters that Daddy had kept filed away all those years, I learned all about the Nance family and how they finally ended up way out there. Great Great Great Uncle Roderick Thorp Nance tried out Missouri in the 1830s but all he found there was a wife. He convinced her to come back home to Trigg County with him before they headed out again together to find them a better life.
It’s a wonder how they could board a flatboat at Tobaccoport just south of Roaring Springs, Kentucky, for a journey that would lead them down the Mississippi to New Orleans where they finally got on a steamer trip to Port Lavaca, Texas. Wonder what all they was really thinking during those years until they finally ended up in that new Indian Territory?
In Knights of the Hill Country, Tim Tharp lets you know what Hampton Green is thinking about in eastern Oklahoma. In a dialect much similar to that of my West Kentucky, perhaps a language carried by those ancestors of mine who carried their way with words as well as their wayward lives from here to there, Tharp allows Hampton to speak freely to only himself about what is on his mind. Hampton Green may not always understand the relevance of what is on his mind as he struggles to finally figure out how to do what he knows is right. That emotional struggle is even bigger than the one Hampton, a Kennisaw Knights highschool football star, faces on the field on game nights.
A winning football team is high on the priority list here in Kentucky, as well as in Texas where the bestselling Friday Night Lights is set, and the fictional Kennisaw is no different. Longstanding rivalries between neighboring towns are pretty much what matters most to lots of folks in little places like Mayfield and Paducah, like Odessa and Midland, like Kennisaw and Okalah.
And they all talk real natural in Knights of the Hill Country. Just like home. Kinda like Calloway County’s Felix Holt in The Gabriel Horn and Graves County’s Bobbie Ann Mason in Clear Springs and Feathered Crowns, Oklahoma County’s Tim Tharp gives an authentic voice to his pompous ass Blaine, Hampton’s best worst friend all together.
If you know any of these places you already know the story. Least I do. But I really like hearing it told again from somewhere else and in that way everybody I know really talks. The way my long lost relatives must have did when they carried their dreams from here to there way back when.
Try it out on your own ears when it comes out in late August from Knopf Books for Young Readers.