Murky mysticism meets historical saga in a lyrically written but fragmented account of a storyteller's attempt to unearth and overcome the buried history of her black family and its hometown, sleepy Kingston, NY. In 1966, Carla March has spent half her life waiting for her beloved Max to return to Kingston. When Miles, a light-footed, smooth-talking golf caddie, breezes through town, she briefly chooses love over brooding before talking herself out of it, driving him away, and resuming her futile vigil. Carla soon realizes that memory lane is the route to happiness, so she recounts the traumatic past of her town and family. The convoluted history begins with the fiery riots that followed a 1924 lynching in Kingston; in the riots' aftermath, Carla's parents adopt an abandoned white infant, Max, whom they revere as God's prophet and raise to be a heretical preacher. Shortly after teenage Carla gives birth to his retarded mulatto son, Max burns down the family home, killing two siblings and scarring Carla, then disappears. Expecting that the equalizing forces of nature will counter tragedy, Carla begins her wait. Meanwhile, Junkman, the mute son of the lynched man, indulges in a one-night stand with Carla's friend Lucinda and is unjustly thrown in jail for rape. In a dissatisfying and inconsistent conclusion, the characters' gnarled lives are straightened out with sappy emotions and forced happy endings: Junkman realizes whom he really loves, and friends help ease Carla's violent grieving, from which she ultimately recovers to claim a new life. Perry (Montgomery's Children, 1983) comes up with some tender, satisfying bits and pieces, but her sugarcoated ending doesn't make this story any easier to swallow.
Read full book review >