Books by Vicki Covington

Released: May 1, 1999

In a bizarre mixture of joint autobiography and sociology, occasionally complemented by detailed instructions on well-drilling, the Covington writer/spouse duo rehashes about 20 years of their stormy, messy married life. The tale of Vicki and Dennis offers no theme of general interest and is perhaps just as trivial or as original as the life story of any random passer-by. The difference here lies in a relatively sophisticated narrative technique that alternates the voices of husband and wife, each of whom in turn provides an individual interpretation of the same events. Vicki's account is emotionally charged, while Dennis sticks to a more balanced and precise journalistic manner. Natives of Alabama, where they wind up again after several brief sojourns elsewhere, the couple have had a lifestyle mÇlange of hippie and pseudobohemian, which seems to defy their parents' basic southern values. Drugs, alcoholism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and adultery, punctuated by a mÇnage Ö trois with one of Dennis's fellow college professors, mix to form a pretty nauseating cocktail of the Covingtons' earlier married life. Just when Vicki's maternal instinct awakens, she is afflicted with an ectopic pregnancy, years of infertility treatment, eventual pregnancy by her husband's buddy, and a subsequent abortion. She finally gives birth to two of Dennis's daughters, their literary careers take off, and their life normalizes to a certain extent, although extramarital affairs remain omnipresent. The Covingtons' return to the Southern Baptist Church appears as abrupt and unconvincing as their pathetic urge to drill water wells in El Salvador to satiate their "spiritual thirst." The final chapters of the book feature frequent quotations from the Bible and pop songs, melodramatic talk of forgiveness, and sadomasochistic confessions the two make to each other about their respective lovers. One hopes that the story of the Covingtons' "crimes and misdemeanors" will prove therapeutic for the authors, as the readers will find it neither edifying nor amusing. (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 13, 1996

In her fourth novel, Covington (Night Ride Home, 1992, etc.) threads the racial unrest of Birmingham, Alabama, in 1961 into the already complicated fabric of one white family's life—and pulls it all together with real, if uneven, tension. Dinah Fraley was 12 when her prostitute mother was murdered by vigilantes and she was bundled off to live with the man alleged to be her father, an evangelistic country preacher. In 1961, Dinah, now in her 30s, is securely married to Pete, a foundry-worker. The couple and their two children are temporarily living in the Crescent Hotel, which Dinah owns and which is in fact the former brothel where she spent her childhood. The shadow of the past that follows Dinah takes its most persistent form in the constant presence of a man named Bull Connor. Connor was in love with Dinah's mother, hints that he may really be Dinah's father, and intrudes daily into the life of the Fraley family. He's also Birmingham's ``Commissioner of Public Safety'' and has made it his private mission to keep blacks and whites from mingling. Thus he can hardly stand it when the Fraleys take in one of the freedom riders from a busload who arrive in town on Mother's Day. And when Pete Fraley makes a personal gesture of friendship toward a local black family, it sends Connor over the edge. All of this makes up a story that Covington approaches obliquely sometimes, complicating the narrative with shifting points of view, especially when she slips into the minds of more marginal characters. But Dinah, Pete, and especially Connor are complex and skillfully drawn. And Covington never takes the easy way out. When Connor's craziness seems ready to explode, she doesn't opt for the violent climatic scene that might have been obvious but, rather, leaves us with something more subtle and far more haunting—the picture of a man with nowhere left to go. Compelling themes, strong depictions of a time and place, though a narrative style that's still waiting for some judicious pruning. Read full book review >
NIGHT RIDE HOME by Vicki Covington
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

Alabama is the setting for Covington's third novel, as it was for Gathering Home (1988) and Bird of Paradise (1990). This one combines a coming-of-age story with a mining disaster and a Christmas miracle. It's late 1941, Pearl Harbor time. In a small mining town, two families are bracing for a difficult wedding. Nineteen-year-old Keller Hayes lives in a tiny company house with mine-worker father Ben Ray and mother Tess, a church-singer. Higher up the social scale are the Sandifers: filling-station owner Sandy, otherworldly wife Grace, and grease-monkey daughter Laura. The problem is Sandy, a mean drunk who's mighty sore at losing Laura to a miner's son and is threatening violence. Another worry for Keller is his unconventional mother's decision to invite Bolivia, the sweet- natured, gypsy-like town whore, who is pregnant; Keller suspects (correctly) that he's the father. But Bolivia's presence proves a godsend: she knows how to handle Scotty, another client, and literally disarms him. Keller competes with these characters (and Charles, the junkman who adores Bolivia) for the spotlight; then a mine wall collapses, killing some miners, trapping Ben Ray and others, and the disaster predominates. Covington shows, simplistically, how death energizes the living; even Sandy turns into a Good Samaritan, laying off the booze to help rescue his enemy Ben Ray, who emerges with a broken leg. Bolivia, though, is responsible for a greater miracle: After her baby is stillborn, black and white mourners come together at the funeral. That's a first. It's also a moment of excessive sweetness; all these people are just a little too good to be true, amiable lightweights, and this undercuts Covington's vision of a community bloody-but- unbowed. Decent work, then, but without much of a payoff. Read full book review >