Where I Can't Follow

A Novel

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Pub Date 15 Feb 2022 | Archive Date 25 Feb 2022
SOURCEBOOKS Landmark, Sourcebooks Landmark


Walk through the door and leave all your problems behind...but you don't know what's on the other side. And once you leave, you'll never come back. Will you go through?

Maren Walker told herself she wouldn't need to sell pills for long, that it was only means to an end. But that end seems to be stretching as far away as the other side of Blackdamp County, Kentucky. There's always another bill for Granny's doctor, another problem with the car, another reason she's getting nowhere.

She dreams of walking through her little door to leave it all behind. The doors have appeared to the people in her mountain town for as long as anyone can remember, though no one knows where they lead. All anyone knows is that if you go, you'll never come back.

Maren's mother left through her door when Maren was nine, and her shadow has followed Maren ever since. When she faces the possibility of escaping her struggles for good, Maren must choose just what kind of future she wants to build.

From critically acclaimed author Ashley Blooms, Where I Can't Follow explores the forces that hold people in place, and how they adapt, survive, and struggle to love a place that doesn't always love them back.

"One of the most original and exciting new voices in literature."—Silas House, author of Clay's Quilt and Southernmost

Walk through the door and leave all your problems behind...but you don't know what's on the other side. And once you leave, you'll never come back. Will you go through?

Maren Walker told herself she...

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ISBN 9781728226392
PRICE $16.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 37 members

Featured Reviews

Life in the Appalachian mountains is tough and Blooms does a great job of showing us how poverty and lack of opportunity affects a community. While WHERE I CAN'T FOLLOW is a hard read; it is also an important one. Blooms shines light on the darkness we all feel from time to time (if not more often) and how our family can love us to pieces while still trapping us. It is about learning how to accept help when the only person you have ever had to depend on is yourself. Ultimately, it is about choices: what does it take to strike out in a new direction and if there were a little door to walk through to find a better life, would you take it?

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Ashley Blooms gets Appalachia just right. I feel comfortable saying that because it's where I live. I loved her descriptions, and the deep feelings I got from reading Where I Can't Follow. Haven't we all wished for that little door?

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No other author I've read has been able to write with the duality of light/dark themes with such painstaking, beautiful prose the way Ashley Blooms does with her work. "Where I Can't Follow" is a worthy follow-up to her 2020 debut, "Every Bone a Prayer," and will leave readers feeling satisfied, hopeful, and if not a little homesick by the end of the book--in a good way.

This book follows the life of Maren Walker, a young woman struggling to get by in her home county of Blackdamp County, Kentucky. While this novel has characters and a setting firmly grounded in reality, the speculative elements in the book weave the narrative together beautifully, highlighting a special kind of "magic" which resonates fondly for those of us who have grown up in hollers or on top of mountains, always dreaming of finding other worlds while out playing in the woods or exploring creeks. The community of Blackdamp County has always been able to find "little doors"--portals to certain worlds unique to each person who finds one. Maren's own mother found her door when she was a little girl, and she took it, disappearing forever. Now, when her life feels like it'll unravel beneath her, Maren comes across her own little door waiting for her, and you follow along with Maren's journey throughout the book to see if she'll take her little door, or choose to stay in this world with the life she's made (and making) for herself.

Maren's life is easily replicated from everyday struggles in Appalachia, where so many people struggle to work dead-end jobs to support a means to an end, or give up on furthering their education due to socio-economic or personal life struggles, or even resort to selling pills in a community stripped bare by ruthless opioid companies. This book tackles addiction in a way where the addicts aren't written out as cheap villains or as fodder to fluff up a plot--the addicted characters we meet in "Where I Can't Follow" are real people, with real personalities, with real problems, and that empathy is what drives the heart of this whole book. You will feel for every character in this novel, in good ways and bad, and if you're a native of eastern Kentucky or Appalachia, you will find a resonance with these characters that remind you of the people you know and love in your life. You will laugh with these characters and you'll cry with these characters, and when the novel is over, you'll miss them all like lost friends.

It is such a treat to read books that accurately represent Appalachia, and it's a treasure when those books feature speculative elements of any kind. This is a magical book full of heart, hurt, and love. I can't get enough of this genre, or of the themes Ashley Blooms writes so well.

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Well alright - this is a really wonderfully written story, the author's skill as a writer is clear from page one. This book is everything you would think - it's heavy and hard beautiful and oooof the prose captures that perfectly. It's kind of... magic realism, and it tackles poverty and addiction in a way that many books aren't capable of. I really really love this book.

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4.5 stars, rounded to five

This novel is written beautifully with wonderful descriptions. Many times I would stop and re-read a sentence because of how well it was worded. The story caught my interest from the very first page. The story concept of the doors is unique and really got you thinking. I can imagine how difficult it would be at times to NOT go through a little door once it presented itself.

This book does get a little heavy at times. The characters’ desperation and frustration are palpable. Mental illness and drugs are two strong themes in this novel.

This is a great book for book clubs because there is plenty to discuss. The back of the novel includes an interview with the author and reader discussion questions.

Thank you Net Galley and Sourcebooks for this digital arc in exchange for my honest review, which is not affiliated with any brand.

#NetGalley #WhereICan’tFollow

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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a digital review copy!

As someone who has grown up in rural Appalachia this book resonated with me. Ashley Bloom portrays her characters with such empathy and understanding it is as if she grew up on the next mountain over from me.

With heavy topics such as mental illness, substance abuse, grief, and desperation the book captures the battles of some rural Appalachian’s. The characters that are portrayed as purchasing drugs are giving their explanations as to why they are in that position, what usually started out as something prescribed is now something critical to a family’s survival. The frustrations of the characters felt so real and relatable.

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