In this series of linked stories the child narrator, Veve, cannot fathom all the mysteries of her family’s life together, but by watching and listening she pieces together a painful past. Played out against the backdrop of rural hardship and deprivation on the family’s Kansas farm, the secret in her father’s previous life eventually explains his harsh treatment of the three older children and her mother’s bitterness over his countless misunderstandings and slights.
When originally published in 1931, a reviewer of Black Cherries commented that there is “a sharpness about all impressions in the book, a keenness of sensuous and spiritual apprehension that leaves brilliant after-images with the reader.” Another described the series of sketches as “exquisite in texture and so faithful to the childish mind that one derives a warm impression of the imagined young narrator.”
Grace Stone Coates (1881–1976) spent most of her life in the tiny ranching community of Martinsdale in southwestern Montana. During a seven-year period, twenty of Coates’s short stories were cited in the annual Best American Short Stories as Distinctive or Honor Roll stories, and John Updike chose Coates’s “Wild Plums” for inclusion in Best American Short Stories of the Century. Coates also published two collections of poetry.
Mary Clearman Blew is a professor of English at the University of Idaho in Moscow. She is the author of Balsamroot and Bone-Deep in Landscape and the editor of Margaret Bell’s When Montana and I Were Young: A Frontier Childhood (Nebraska 2002).
"This handsome edition of Coates' most effective and moving stories has a solid and exciting introduction by Mary Clearman Blew. . . . Black Cherries is a work of genius, written in vital fluids, illuminated by lightening, quivering with truth."—Statesman Journal, Salem, OK