Good things come to those who wait: it took 50 years to write this book

Some 50 years ago a young woman began writing a novel. The book, “A Young Woman from the Provinces” by Jo Ann Kiser, is now complete and out in the world. While the author insists that this tale is not her story, as in, not autobiographical, the trajectory of her fictional protagonist, Geneva Clay, certainly takes her through many of the same locales.

The author lives in Yellow Springs and grew up in eastern Kentucky. Following numerous moves throughout her life, that coal mining area remains very dear to her. As the novel opens Geneva Clay is a young girl living in that region with her family. Packard Clay, her father, is a coal miner.

She remembers when her father took her inside the mine: “‘What you doing with a female in here?’ an unhappy voice asked Daddy. ‘We’ll have bad luck for years.’” By the next page a dreaded word is heard: explosion, down at the mine. Packard Clay had been at work that day, within that hazardous mine shaft.

Geneva’s father survived and this is merely another bump in his rather rocky employment history. Coal mining was boom or bust during that period of the 1940s and 1950s. Packard Clay keeps finding jobs then losing them. The family has to continue moving around. They go to Florida, and Ohio.

Her mother Eliza is a stoic, long suffering figure. The Clays had an extended family and these were God fearing folks. Some were preachers-certain things were not acceptable, like divorce, and birth control. Eliza’s health was fragile. She regularly became pregnant. Times were hard, some babies didn’t survive.

Some of Eliza’s babies lived, like little Eddie, and later on, the baby of the family, Ruth. Geneva became their protective big sister. When Eliza was unwell or when their dad was out of a job again and their mother had to find work Geneva became the one who took care of her siblings. This created strains on everybody.

Young Geneva begins her love affair with books. She’s not supposed to touch her dad’s western novels but she does anyway. She borrows books from the library and decides that one day she will write some of her own. That’s her dream. We track these Clays over decades. Geneva goes to college in Ohio.

She has lofty ambitions. She wants to get an education, to travel to cities, like New York. She really wants to fall in love. We follow this young woman from the provinces on her adventures. Geneva Clay never loses sight of her dreams and even as she becomes sophisticated and worldly she doesn’t forsake tender memories of living down in that holler in eastern Kentucky. They had nothing then but they were happy.

Jo Ann Kiser is an impeccable prose stylist and a gifted storyteller. She describes natural worlds steeped in wonder: " two small cornfields shimmering green and silver in the sunlight; its steep pasturage, anchored by an ancient hickory...”

This novel took Jo Ann Kiser half a century to complete. And it was well worth the wait.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

About the Author