Gurney Norman’s book, “Kinfolks-The Wilgus Stories,” is a collection of short stories about the life of Wilgus Collier. The book has many themes: such as, kinship and the relationship between members of a family; bickering correspondence between two siblings; and changes to the Appalachian mountain regions. Even though these themes are seen throughout, Wilgus is the main character that holds the family together with his kindness and fairness.
The book is arranged chronologically and each story follows Wilgus’ growth and maturation from eight through his early twenties. Throughout these stories, Wilgus plays caregiver, mediator, defender, and consoler. It is a role that can be summed up in one word, “kindness.” It is Wilgus’ kindness that defines him as a character, his unselfish concern for his family, individually and collectively.
Wilgus is indeed the family caregiver and mediator. As we have seen in “Fat Monroe,” even as a child of eight, Wilgus defends his parents’ honor. In “The Favor,” his chief desire as a child of ten or so is to protect his grandmother from hurt. Wilgus is likewise sensitive, caring and protective of his Aunt Jenny in “The Fight.” He does not take sides in the fight between Jenny and his grandmother, but tries to act as the mediator between them.
In “The Tail-End of Yesterday,” Wilgus is the caregiver of his dying Grandfather. During most of the story Wilgus stays with his grandfather in the dying man’s hospital room. His family relies on him to give the news from the doctor in regards to Granddad Collier’s condition. Because Wilgus is in college, they assume he is the only one who can understand the doctor’s diagnosis.
Wilgus continues to be the caregiver in the concluding two stories, “The Revival” and “Maxine.” In, “The Revival,” this story shows Uncle Delmer suffering the effects of a long drunk. At this time, Uncle Delmer is at his lowest point and Wilgus comes to his house, gets him to...