Books by Sheri Reynolds

Sheri Reynolds was born and raised in rural South Carolina. She graduated from Conway High School in 1985, Davidson College in 1989, and Virginia Commonwealth University in 1992. Her published novels include Bitterroot Landing, The Rapture of Canaan

THE SWEET IN-BETWEEN by Sheri Reynolds
Released: Nov. 25, 2008

"An unusual coming-of-age novel, though a bit too opaque to be a real success."
Her mother is dead, her father's in prison and she's trying to pass as a boy—the teenage world of Kendra "Kenny" Lugo is anything but easy in this somber fifth novel from Reynolds (Writing/Old Dominion Univ.; Firefly Cloak, 2006, etc.). Read full book review >
A GRACIOUS PLENTY by Sheri Reynolds
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

Reynolds again hits pay dirt with a third novel, after Bitterroot Landing (1995) and The Rapture of Canaan (1996)—the latter, as everyone knows, a recent selection of Oprah's Book Club and now enjoying its fifth week at the top of the bestseller lists. As a four-year-old, Finch Nobles pulled boiling water off the stove onto herself; as a result, she's badly scarred, and her appearance makes her a kind of outcast in her small southern town. Her father tended the graveyard, and following his death and her mother's, Finch has inherited the job of gravekeeper, with all its solemn duties. Unsurprisingly, the wise Finch begins welcoming and chatting with the newly planted, whose spirits rise and respond. There's beauty queen Lucy Armour, who escapes the confines of the town but dies mysteriously and is shipped home. Did she commit suicide? There's also William Parker Blott, who left his family, became a filthy, sore-ridden street-bum, but later returned home to money and a mausoleum. As Finch sees it, in a passage that resounds with Francis Phelan's view into his dead son's grave in Ironweed, The Dead possess unique powers and knowledge: ``The Dead control the seasons. Everything depends on them. In June, The Dead tunnel earthworms, crack the shells of bird eggs, poke the croaks from frogs. The ones who died children make play of their work, blowing bugs from weed to weed, aerating fields with their cartwheels. They thump the bees and send them out to pollinate gardenias.'' When The Dead lighten up enough, by learning to let the past go, The Mediator allows them to rise to a level past Finch's knowing. But Marcus, the Mayor's baby, who died of ``failure to thrive,'' can't stop bawling. The slender plot hinges on the story of his death and Finch's loving attempts to free his spirit. A southern tearjerker with some nice surprises—and likely to be a swift success. (First printing of 300,000) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 3, 1996

A second tragedy-laden southern coming-of-age tale from Reynolds (Bitterroot Landing, 1995)—this one, set in a strict and punitive religious community, with a good, gothic allure despite its lamentably plodding prose. Ninah Huff is 14 when she really begins to chafe at the confines of her small world. Her grandpa Herman, founder of the Church of Fire and Brimstone and God's Almighty Baptizing Wind, keeps harsh control over their small South Carolina community, which is populated mostly by Ninah's extended family. Those who stray from the righteous path know to expect treatment that can range from whippings with a leather strap to sleeping overnight in a newly dug grave. And Grandpa Herman is always ready with Scripture to justify any of these punishments. Ninah, meanwhile, finds herself dreaming more and more about forbidden things, especially her strong physical attraction to James, one of the few boys around who's not her blood kin. When she winds up pregnant, it sparks tragedy within her family and shock waves throughout the community. But Ninah insists that she's not guilty of the sin of fornication, that what she and James did together was a form of pure prayer. And, sure enough, when baby Canaan is born, he appears to bear a sign from God—his hands are joined at the palms like someone perpetually praying. Grandpa Herman proclaims him the New Messiah, and he's taken away from Ninah to be raised by others. This time out, Reynolds burdens her story with some unworkable metaphors—a rug that grins?—and much awkward dialogue, but, in all, she creates a strongly compelling tension between family feeling and religious fervor. The fate of Ninah and her son is uncertain until the small epiphany (or, really, anti-epiphany) at book's end—a moment that seems just right. Fire and brimstone that goes tepid at times but is really chilling overall. (Literary Guild alternate selection; author tour) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 4, 1995

Rape, murder, abuse, incest, self-mutilation, and temporary insanity combine to form an uninspiring first novel. Growing up in an unspecified region of rural America, Jael hates her Mammie, who allows the men who buy her moonshine to force themselves on the girl with only the warning ``Don't take no more than you pay for.'' Jael eventually knocks Mammie over the head with a mallet, and the murder is blamed on a disgruntled customer. She is adopted by the deacon, River Bill, and lives contentedly in his house in the middle of the river until the day she predictably becomes ``his wife instead of his confused me like nothing before.'' She takes off with a handsome young man who stops at their shop while River Bill isn't around, only to find when she awakens that he's disappeared with all her belongings—a development that surprises her far more than it will the reader. Jael spears frogs for dinner, makes a home under a giant oak, and begins a strange ritual: cutting herself on the stomach, hips, and insides of her thighs. The tone here is so matter-of-fact, and Jael's voice is so colorless, that even this extreme experience seems dull, lifeless, and predictable. After her rescue, Jael fakes amnesia so she won't have to go back to her former life and begin the difficult process of resocializing; instead, she finds support and strength in imaginary companions like the woman she models out of wax and the Virgin Mary. Reynolds's lackluster prose never leaves any doubt that Jael will overcome this passing madness, leaving little reason to watch her working as a janitor in a church, falling in love with a young artist, and joining a sexual- abuse survivors' group. The subject of abuse and recovery deserves more skilled treatment than it gets here. (Literary Guild alternate selection) Read full book review >