Each of the stories in "Not Far From Town" is set along the upper Allegheny River in northern Pennsylvania. The rural landscape with its creeks, forests, hills and sky, is woven into the fabric of the characters' lives. Sebastian Baxter laments the loss of Cornplanter's people as he drives his old station wagon in the middle of the night along the Allegheny River near Kinzua before the new dam drowned the land. She who has no name endures sorrow with the help of Portage Creek and the trout who inhabit that stream. While fishing Skinner Creek, Old Man Corbin talks quietly of his long dead wife who was as much a part of nature as the wildflowers and the trees. Clara Hill lives up Bear Creek. The young widow has chosen to live alone on the edge of the wilderness. She feels that life in the wild is more real than the alternative, and she believes that nature can heal those who take refuge there. The orphan teenager Lily takes refuge there. She wonders if her deceased mother was ever happy: "Does sorrow drown joy or is joy a rock over which sorrow flows?" And so it goes as the stories unfold. The reader, immersed in the natural world and a witness to very human struggles, will discover in these stories a joyful melancholy like a sky filled with storm clouds through which the sun might break.
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