Moonshiner’s Daughter, by Mary Judith Messer, is the early life story of a young girl raised in some of the most remote, backwoods parts of Haywood County, North Carolina, deep in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. Her father, an ardent moonshiner when he wasn’t in prison, and her mother, often showing mental illness from an earlier brain injury, raised their four children in some of the grimmest circumstances that you will ever read about. Messer eventually escaped her extreme living conditions by going to live with a family as their mother’s helper outside of Washington, DC. She then moved to New York City to join her oldest sister who had fled an abusive arranged marriage when she was fifteen and left behind a young son. These two teenage girls, uneducated but determined, found freedom from their Appalachian abuse yet encountered a culture and some inhabitants who provided scars even so. Messer’s memoir is told through the eyes and with the words of a barely educated child and young woman yet their meaning and her descriptions are clear as a mountain stream. Messer changed the names of many people and places she wrote about to protect her still living family members and herself as well. In the final chapter, Messer shares one legacy from her father….he even taught the infamous “Popcorn” Sutton of Maggie Valley how to be a moonshiner when Popcorn was a teenager. The moonshiner’s daughter did survive and ultimately thrive. This is her story. You won’t be able to put it down.
“This is a very heartfelt book.”
Five Star Review on Amazon By Theresa Geary
We recently moved to the area. My daughter and I are both writers and were delighted to meet the author in person and read her book. It is a very heartfelt book and told us a lot about the local culture and Mary’s experiences in particular. There are some very sad parts but there was REDEMPTION in the end. I am pleased to report that the locals we met in this area have been especially welcoming and some of the nicest people I ever met. Congratulations Mary on your very awesome book. I wish you even more success and happiness in life.
About the Author
Although she was a successful businesswoman, wife and mother of three sons, Mary J. Messer was haunted by her poverty-ridden past. In slow times during her work day, she would sit down and scribble her memories of growing up in spiral bound notebooks. She filled these notebooks to overflowing, and put them away for five years. But she couldn’t put it out of her mind that someone else might be able to benefit from reading about the horrors of what she went through, so she made an announcement on the local radio station, seeking someone to transcribe her notebooks and save to a computer disk. Eventually, she had a couple from South Carolina who took on the task of translating her “creative” spelling and Chinese chicken scratching that was her hand writing into manageable form. “I decided to write this book about my life because I just had to. All my life, I have had this burning in my heart about what happened to me and my siblings and no one had to pay for the crimes. Maybe by getting my story out, I will stop hurting. Even though I only had an eighth grade education, and a pretty spotty one at that, and the thought of me writing a book seemed impossible, I couldn’t keep it inside.” One of Mary’s little charges when she was a mother’s helper, Buffy Queen, now grown, then became her editor, got the manuscript into final form and helped her find a publisher. Please find other information at Mary’s website: moonshinersdaughter.com.