|Country||United States of America|
|Pages||498 (first edition)|
|ISBN||0-310-24163-4 (paperback edition) (Zondervan)|
Christy (released in 1967) is a historical fiction novel by Christian author Catherine Marshall set in the fictional Appalachian village of Cutter Gap, Tennessee, in 1912. The novel was inspired by the story of the journey made by her own mother, Leonora Whitaker, to teach the impoverished children in the Appalachian region as a young, single adult. The novel explores faith and mountain traditions such as moonshining, folk beliefs and folk medicine. Marshall also made notes for a sequel, never published, which were found by her family some 34 years later. Christianity Today ranked Christy as 27th on a list of the 50 books (post-World War II) that had most shaped evangelicals' minds after surveying "dozens of evangelical leaders" for their nominations.
While attending a Christian revival meeting, 19-year-old Christy Huddleson is fascinated when she listens to the founder of an Appalachian mission program as he describes the work his group is doing and the needs of the Cutter Gap community. Christy, the daughter of a well-to-do family in Asheville, North Carolina, finds herself drawn to the idea of volunteering for the mission to be a teacher to the needy Cutter Gap students. Her parents are initially reluctant, but she persists and soon makes the trip to the remote area.
From her first day in the Appalachians, she is challenged by the filthy conditions and primitive folk medicine beliefs of the mountain people, but her mentor at the mission, a Quaker named Alice Henderson, encourages her to notice also the beauty in the community and people, and to help preserve the best of the Appalachians in ways that will help the locals to become self-sustaining. Christy and her co-worker, minister David Grantland, attempt to educate local students and to teach their neighbors an alternative to the family feuding and cycle of revenge that have been a tradition for decades. Local physician Neill MacNeill is an agnostic who grew up in the mountains and who seeks to make Christy more sympathetic to locals' concerns and traditions.
Plot threads include Christy's experiences in the school house and her burgeoning friendships with local women, David's challenges in reaching a community that views him as an interfering outsider, family feuds, moonshiners who use schoolchildren as their assistants, and questions of faith. As Christy becomes better acquainted with MacNeill and Miss Alice, she discovers that the physician's late wife was Miss Alice's daughter (conceived when a predatory visiting minister raped Alice as a teen), and that the physician's agnosticism was partly a reaction to the apparent injustice of his wife's death. Christy's faith is tried by these and other revelations, at the same time that she is romantically drawn both to the minister and the physician.
Allusions to actual history, geography and science
The fictional village of Cutter Gap is based on a community centered on the Chapel Hollow in the small Morgan Branch valley (NOT to be confused with Morgan Branch, TN), a few miles west of Del Rio in Cocke County, Tennessee. Local landmarks associated with the story are marked for visitors, including the site of the Ebenezer Mission in Chapel Hollow.
At a women's society meeting where Christy was giving a talk regarding the plight of those living in Cutter Gap, a woman shares with her information regarding the Danish folk schools established by Grundtvig, in which adults learned to use traditional folkways and crafts to become self-sustaining.
A wholly fictional MacNeill performs trepanation on an accident victim and studies trachoma in the local population. Several characters also suffer from typhoid fever, and the educated characters in the book set out to teach better hygiene to the local population in order to prevent the disease. MacNeill also lectures Christy on the origins of moonshining and the reasons why many locals — including MacNeill — consider its prohibition to be an unfair block to their earning money from their crops. Christy eventually marries the physician.
Catherine Marshall, the widow of Dr. Peter Marshall when she wrote the book, following up on her best seller "A Man Called Peter," has been quoted as saying the book was about 75% percent historical, although the main characters (the physician) and mountain woman descended from ancient royalty, are fictionalized. While in the book it is implied she ends up with the doctor, the real "Christy," Catherine Marshall's mother, married a minister. A detailed comparison between aspects of the novel and their real-world antecents is detailed in the essay Christy and Leonora: City Girl, Country Gal.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
Christy was made into a TV-movie and television series in 1994. The week after the movie and program debuted, the novel jumped from #120 up to #15 on the USA Today bestseller list. Together, the novel and the TV series were the inspiration of ChristyFest, an annual celebration in Townsend, Tennessee since 1999.
- "Christy takes a husband: Heroine weds at conclusion of miniseries," The Daily Times (Maryville, TN), May 11, 2001 (no page number).
- Renee Peck. "Two guys, a girl and a simpler place - 'Christy' finally ties the knot," The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), May 13, 2001, page 9.
- Editors. "The top books that have shaped evangelicals," Christianity Today, Vol. 50, Issue 10, October 2006, pages 51-55.
- "One Week Out: Events coming next weekend," The Daily Times (Maryville, TN), June 13, 2008, Weekend section: "Although Cutter Gap does not exist, it is widely believed that Marshall based the village on the real community of Morgan Branch in nearby Cocke County. Townsend served as Cutter Gap for the popular CBS television series 'Christy' in the mid-1990s."
- "USA Today best-selling books," USA Today, April 14, 1994, page 4D.