Appalachian Song

Apr 2, 2024 | Book Reviews

I’ve never had to consider giving up a child up for adoption, but Appalachian Song by Michelle Shocklee shows what it might feel like—and reveals possible motives that enter such a decision. While some mothers give up their babies as an inconvenience, others are wrought with anguish over parting with a loved child for his own wellbeing. Such is the nature of sacrifice as an act of love.

Michelle visited my blog twice before:

The above two dual timeline novels were set in the Nashville area. Appalachian Song brings us to Southern Appalachia, in 1943 and 1973. 

Tyndale House Publishers (October 3, 2023)



My Thoughts

In the case of Walker Wylie, confusion and anger win the day. In 1973, the country music star is blindsided by learning about his adoption. He has no idea if his birth mother was motivated by love or selfishness. But he intends to find out. 

He has a chip on his shoulder—understandably so since his parents never told him about his adoption till recently. Now he seems to take it out on everybody else.

Walker enlists the help of Reese Chandler, midwife and adoption advocate in a poor community of Southern Appalachia, to help trace his roots. Reese, too, is adopted and knows her own personal history. The American historical backdrop includes the recent Roe v Wade decision, the hippie culture, and the Vietnam War.

In 1943, when Songbird’s father discovers she is with child, his anger and shame know no boundaries. She runs for her safety and finds refuge at the Jenkins sisters’ cabin.

In the backwoods of Appalachia live five spinster sisters, each with a unique personality. Bertie, an experienced midwife, is as compassionate as she is stubborn. She’s also willing to take risks—which stipulates secrets—for a good cause.

Several points of view are employed—Bertie, Songbird, Walker, and Reese—in this deftly handled dual timeline story. As a reader, I knew a bit more than Walker did, but he and I still learned certain things simultaneously, especially the steps leading up to Songbird’s decision and beyond.

Appalachian culture was accurately depicted with truth and respect for mountain traditions and values. The romance is less a part of the story than the idea of belonging to a family, whether by blood or choice. Which was fine with me. The focus was where it needs to be. If I could change one thing, I would add a particular conversation in realtime rather than just allude to it later. I can’t say which one without spoiling the story. 

I loved the natural, organic tie-in to God as a heavenly Father who creates His family through adoption, and how lavish His love is compared to many earthly fathers who fail to cherish their own biological children.

Don’t be alarmed by the opening scene and reference to teen sex. The scene is  necessary to the story. 

Join me for some Q & A with author Michelle Shocklee.

Questions about Appalachian Song

When my husband and I first moved to Tennessee in 2017, I was like a sponge soaking up all the cool history of this beautiful state. On our first visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, we discovered the Walker Sisters cabin where six sisters lived their entire lives in the late 1800s and 1900s. 

Tucked in the hills and hollers of Appalachia, the Walker family’s home and history captivated me. The more I studied them and their unique story, the more I wanted to write about their lives. The Jenkins sisters in Appalachian Song  are inspired by the real lives of the Walker sisters.  

Adoption is very near and dear to my heart. We have several members of our extended family who are adopted and some who have adopted children. I also have the privilege of knowing a young woman who bravely gave up her baby for adoption as a young unwed teenage mother. 

Adoption is a beautiful gift and is part of God’s perfect plan for humankind. Romans 8 reminds us that God adopts us as his own children when we put our faith in Christ, giving us the freedom to call him, “Abba, Father.” As I considered including the thread of adoption in this book, I knew the characters had to understand that truth too. The theme of “I choose you” is at the heart of the book. 

Even though the real Walker sisters of the Great Smoky Mountains served as inspiration for the book, the story is completely fictional. The descriptions I use for the Jenkins cabin are of the Walker cabin, as are the family dynamics. The storyline, however, is pure fiction. 

When my editor at Tyndale House asked me to write a story about a midwife, Bertie’s character immediately sprang to my imagination. I’d recently visited the Walker Sisters cabin, and I thought it would be great fun to give Bertie some sisters. Midwives were essential in rural Appalachia, and I enjoyed the research that went into that storyline. 

Walker’s character is based on a real person in my life, although he was much younger when he learned he was adopted. The impact on him and the emotions he experienced were very similar to Walker’s response to learning he was adopted. It’s a life-changing revelation, and I wanted to explore that in a deep and meaningful way. 

Walker needed someone who understood what he was going through to help him navigate that often difficult road, and that’s where Reese’s character comes in.  

I think Bertie and Reese would appreciate my love for history, especially in their neck of the woods. East Tennessee’s Appalachia holds a unique history unto itself, and that’s what I tried to bring out in Appalachian Song. The people, the traditions, the beliefs. My research yielded far more interesting facts and tidbits than I was able to include in the book. 

My biggest challenge while writing Appalachian Song was Songbird’s character. In the first draft of the book, I did not give Songbird her own Point of View (POV). Meaning, she didn’t get the opportunity to tell her own story. Her story unfolded through Bertie’s POV. 

After my editors read the rough draft, we all agreed that Songbird needed her own POV. That meant I had to rewrite fourteen chapters! Whew! It was a huge job, but I’m very pleased with the outcome. Songbird needed to tell her own story to readers. 

I recently finished writing my fourth dual timeline novel for Tyndale House. This story is set on a Tennessee walking horse farm during WWII and the Vietnam war. There’s lots of family secrets, character growth, and horses! Readers can stay tuned to my social media pages for a Title and Cover Reveal coming soon! The book will be released in Fall 2024.


If you like Southern Appalachian fiction and small town/rural stories about family dynamics and secrets, you might enjoy my novel All That Is Hidden. Set near North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains in 1968, the story spotlights the bond of family and the connections of a tight-knit community. Northern exploitation threatens as a father’s hidden past catches up to him and tests family ties. Learn more and watch the trailer here.

  • Winner of the Artisan Book Reviews Book Excellence Award
  • Semifinalist in Serious Writer’s Book of the Decade contest


Michelle Shocklee Bio

Michelle Shocklee is the author of several historical novels. Her work is included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. As a woman of mixed heritage–her father’s family is Hispanic and her mother’s roots go back to Germany–she celebrates diversity and feels it’s important to see the world through the eyes of one another. Learning from the past and changing the future is why she writes historical fiction. With both her sons grown, she and her husband now make their home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Connect with her at


Join me next time for a visit with author Terri Wangard.

Meanwhile, have you read Appalachian Song or any others by Michelle Shocklee? Do you have any experience with adoption? Answer in the comments below.

Ever reading,


Coming soon: A Hundred Magical Reasons, a novel

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  1. Mary

    Appalachian Song is a beautiful title. The setting in Appalachia is very appealing to me. I love the book Christy. A number of years I served on a mission trip in Appalachia, though not in Tennessee. The author’s approach to adoption is lovely. It really is a reminder of God’s great love for us in bringing those of us into his family when we have faith in Christ Jesus.

    Your review gave us a good glimpse of what the story will be about. You mentioned the spinster sisters. The use of spinster had me laughing, but that word would have been used in the era the story was set. There is an audible available to preview on Amazon. This book seems like a good read. I’m planning on giving it a try!

    • Laura DeNooyer

      Let me know what you think after you read it, Mary! Sounds like your experience in Appalachia will give you some extra appreciation for the story.

  2. Anita Klumpers

    Sounds intense! You don’t give accolades lightly
    (although you are always gracious!) so it also must be well-written.
    It’s always encouraging to hear of good writers who
    want to honor God while telling a worthwhile story.

    • Laura DeNooyer

      Yes, it’s well-written and portrays a beautiful picture of adoption.

  3. Barbara M. Britton

    This is on my TBR list. I loved “Count the Nights by Stars.” next time I’m in Nashville, I have to visit the Colliseum.

    • Laura DeNooyer

      I’d like to see the Nashville Parthenon. Tim and I are headed to Tennessee this month for a few days so maybe we’ll see it. I wish I could see the old Maxwell House Hotel but we’re too late for that. 🙂

  4. Nancy Radosevich

    I love the setting as well as the focus on adoption – from several perspectives. I sneaked a peek on Amazon – this looks like another one I need to add to the TBR pile!

    • Laura DeNooyer

      Good! I hope you read it. It’s one of my favorite settings, too.


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