Fiction Review: The Other Side of Certain, by Amy Willoughby-Burle

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Read to the end for an opportunity to enter a giveaway in connection with this blog tour.


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Mattie Mobley planned to be a teacher, but when times grew tough during America’s Great Depression, and there were no teaching positions in her hometown of Asheville, NC, Mattie found work starting a school and helping the Pack Horse Librarians just over the mountains in the rural town of Certain, Kentucky. She’s not certain at all that this is a good situation, but she’s determined, and honestly, a little desperate. Of all the things that Mattie does have-money, comforts, a good name, she doesn’t have what matters most-friends, love, and a purpose of her own.

Daniel, “The Grizzly Bear,” Barrett had a lovely life for a little while. Overcoming his family’s bad name and worse reputation, he made a life for himself in Certain. He was married with children and a figure of respect in his church, but desperate times called for desperate measures and a terrible tragedy was the result. Now exiled with his children along the wily run of the Hell for Certain Creek, Daniel has gotten used to being the town pariah again. It’s in his blood after all. Right? Maybe not, but he’ll need the powerful influence of love not only to change his own mind about himself but to convince his estranged extended family and the whole town as well.

Can one librarian with a saddlebag full of books make people see the difference between fact and fiction? Mattie loves a good story, and this may be her best one yet. Fiction tells the best truths and the best truth of all is love.


Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours (HFVBT), the opinions below are my own.

It’s funny how the mind can play tricks on you. There was I, thinking packhorse librarian stories had become en vogue these past couple of years… but my review history tells me I’ve only read three over an equal number of years.

Yes, facts can be important and that’s what Mattie is determined to discover when she’s warned about one of the locals on the library trail she’s given. Except, no one will tell her why because they don’t think she needs to know. There are other mysteries too: why is the library housed in a near-derelict church, and why did the previous inhabitants of her lodgings leave their belongings behind when they left?

The answers are revealed in an engrossing novel written entirely in the first-person perspectives of our two lead characters. This format didn’t always work, for me at least. I preferred Daniel’s point of view; I felt I could “hear” him better than I could Mattie. What it did do, however, was prolong the mystery. Everything was carefully written so the reader only caught glimpses of what might be until the intentional revealing. I also got the impression that there’s more to Mattie’s story than met the eye. At first her family’s wealth appeared obvious, and perhaps more so given that The Other Side of Certain is set during the Great Depression and the poverty in the rural community is evident. But at one point there’s a line from Mattie that seems to imply her father has been keeping up appearances. Appearances, they’re important in this novel.

Maybe my brain is playing tricks on me, but I’m sure I saw a list of the titles to follow in this new Love for Certain series. I can’t find them now of course. But it’s good that there is more to come. Daniel’s children are delightful, and I’d love to see more of them. I think some of the supporting characters have stories they need to tell as well.


Rating: 4 out of 5.


Publisher: Fireship Press

Publication Date: 21 September 2022

Book Information



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Amy Willoughby-Burle is an award winning fiction author living in Asheville, NC with her husband and four children. Her fiction focuses on the importance of family and friends and centers on the themes of forgiveness, second chances, and finding the beauty in the world around us. She is the author of the novels The Lemonade Year and The Year of Thorns and Honey. Her short fiction has been published in numerous journals and in her collection, Out Across the Nowhere. 

Amy Willoughby-Burle’s Website


The Other Side of Certain

One comment

  1. Thank you so much for reading and reviewing my new novel. I am honored to be featured on your blog as part of my tour. Yes there is more to come and yes Daniel and his children will be in future stories as well. Thank you again!


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