John (Marsden) Ehle (Jr.)

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Edmund Fuller

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["The Winter People"] is a splendid story of the clannish, fiercely independent mountain people and a newcomer among them. The opening tone is ominous but shifts quickly into a sustained, joyous lyricism, with the quality of "lilt and sway" that the stranger, Wayland Jackson, finds in the speech of a young mountain woman, Collie Wright….

The cast is large, with memorably delineated personalities. Two compelling figures are the heads of the hostile clans…. The talk among all these people is extraordinarily rich, ranging from tones of rough humor and bawdiness to tenderness. Grimly threatening confrontations lead to hard negotiations that are like statecraft in miniature. No outside law is invoked; these families settle their own affairs.

There is a 39-page bear hunt in which the slight and gentle Wayland is tested, foreshadowing a graver testing he will face. Of bear-hunt stories William Faulkner is king, but Mr. Ehle can claim a dukedom….

Edmund Fuller, "Feuding Mountain Clans and a Poignant Family Comedy," in The Wall Street Journal (reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, © Dow Jones & Company, Inc. 1982; all rights reserved), April 20, 1982, p. 30.∗

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Ivan Gold