Eleven-year-old Autumn is excited to be moving away from her isolated mountain home to the big city of Knoxville, Tennessee. Her father is working there, and Autumn, her older sister, Katie, and their mother are about to join him. The year is 1934, and Civilian Conservation Corps workers are busy in the mountains, transforming the land into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Plans change, however, when her grandfather takes ill. Autumn's mother decides Gramps needs her care (and she really doesn't want to leave Cades Cove, where she has always lived). She and the girls move in with Gramps, because they've already sold their house to the government. Gramps is thrilled about the coming park, because people have been told that Cades Cove won't be part of it. Gramps is convinced that he and the neighbors will get rich catering to all the tourists who will flock to the area. At first Autumn despises living with her grumpy Gramps. Nor is she thrilled by the boy who keeps hanging around - Cody, the lonely nephew of a man helping to get the park ready. But before long Autumn and Cody discover that park planners haven't been telling the truth: Cades Cove will be part of the park, and its people will lose their homes.
Kristin O'Donnell Tubb has written a wonderful debut novel, full of history, excitement and sensitivity. She has done her research well, loosely basing Gramps and Cody's uncle on real people. There is also plenty of action, including a wild ride that Autumn and Cody take in a wooden coffin down a rain - swollen river. Autumn is a funny, likable and very real character, and readers are treated to many fine glimpses of the Cove's vanishing mountain traditions, such as a visit to a moonshine still and the community "Syrup Soppin' Festival."Eventually, Autumn learns that adults aren't always right, and she comes to fully appreciate her stubborn grandfather, who finds himself duped by park planners. There is no happy ending to this story - Tubb takes no easy shortcuts - but she finds a satisfying and very real resolution.
Today the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the U.S., and Cades Cove is the most visited section of the park.
Alice Cary lives in Groton, Massachusetts, and hopes one day to visit Cades Cove.