Bonnie Proudfoot and An Exploration of Goshen Road: A Novel 

It took Fairmont State graduate, Bonnie Proudfoot, about 25 years to write Goshen Road: A Novel. Proudfoot says it took so long, in part, because she “did not want to disappoint her neighbors.” Her neighbors were those that surrounded her while living in Wetzel County, West Virginia, where everyone knew one another and had tight-knit relationships. In the Phyllis Wilson Moore Online Author Series hosted by Fairmont State University, Proudfoot described not only the process of writing her novel but how moving to West Virginia gave her the creative spark that inspired her to write it. While hearing excerpts read by Proudfoot from her novel, one could feel her inspiration and love for West Virginia. 

Goshen Road: A Novel began as a collection of short stories that kept growing and connecting until Proudfoot knew what she had on her hands was a novel. One could see how these short stories were weaved together during Proudfoot’s reading of the section of her book “In a Flash.” This section recounts nine different scenes in the character Lux’s life, a boy born and raised in West Virginia. These are scenes of growing up with familial struggles that ring true for many people who have grown up in rural West Virginia. This is shown when Lux’s father wants him to take over work in their fields and return them to their glory days. Lux resents his father because of this, as Lux believes he is a man who can do it all and wants to decide his own fate. 

Proudfoot said she largely used her own experiences and observations of those around her when writing Goshen Road: A Novel. This is true for small and large details, such as Lux’s prized possession being an arrowhead, which Proudfoot admits during the meeting is inspired by her own arrowhead that she discovered and treasures, and setting the stories main industry as logging, which was also the main industry in Wetzel County when Proudfoot lived there. Some scenes were based on her own experiences. During her reading, when the characters Lux and Dessie go jumping off of a rope swing into a lake, one could feel the excitement but also nervousness she must have felt as she prepared to do the same thing. 

West Virginia has a beauty that is hard to find to find anywhere else. Proudfoot felt this beauty deeply when she lived in West Virginia, and one can feel this beauty in Goshen Road: A Novel. She says about living in West Virginia “I began to understand nature in ways I never had before in WV.” Proudfoot ties this natural beauty into the beauty of the characters in her story, who are inspired by the hardworking and determined people that lived in Wetzel County. Proudfoot describes that there was a “proud culture” where she lived and she wanted to show it through the way the characters in her story fight through difficulties like poverty.  

Proudfoot says that one of the reasons her novel took so long to write was that she had to get older. Age allowed her to fully comprehend and write out the experience of living in West Virginia, and with age, her novel was able to blossom. Though Proudfoot has now crossed the Ohio River and settled in Athens, Ohio, she still cherishes her time in West Virginia. One can see this love of West Virginia in Goshen Road: A Novel 

A copy of Goshen Road: A Novel is available at the Folklife Center.