by Louise Shivers ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 29, 1983
Roxanna Will Walston, 20-year-old wife of smalltime tobacco-farmer Aaron in 1937 North Carolina, tells how she came to be part of a scandalous local ""Love Triangle"" murder-case--in an intermittently effective novella that combines a dirt-simple plot with a primitive/poetic prose style. Roxy's mother died when she was six. Her father--the local funeral-home owner--remarried, had two more kids. . . while Roxy chose to live with her beloved grandmother Georgeanna And when Georgeanna died, Roxy quickly married laconic young Aaron, with ""Baby"" coming along soon after. But now, keeping house and tending Baby, Roxy feels ""unstrung, unquieted, my heart like a grape stain with no wine made. . . ."" Thus, she's ripe for passion when Aaron acquires a chum/hired-hand: Jack Ruffin, a ""red-headed, jagged-faced"" stranger in town who helps out casually, comes to dinner Saturdays (he and Aaron wordlessly play mandolin/guitar duets all evening), then moves into the spare room. And though Jack pretty much seems to ignore the infatuated Roxy at first, the erotic fireworks begin as soon as Aaron goes into town: ""Our motions were like the unrollings of a Persian rug of many colors. Our tongues were the tenderest chameleons of spring."" Roxy halfheartedly tries to end the affair--especially when Baby gets burned (an overturned pot) while the adulterers are at play. Then passive Aaron suggests that Jack had better leave. But Jack lingers on --till the night when he bashes Aaron with a rifle butt, buries him alive, and flees South, taking Roxy (who only half-knows what has happened to Aaron) and Baby along with him. (""I knew something was wrong. Bad wrong, One minute I was standing there soaping Baby and the next I was being pushed into the car."") So Roxy suddenly comes out of her love-daze, seeks help, and--after Jack is apprehended and convicted--looks forward to a new life. . . in final chapters that are disappointingly thick with repetitious, obvious theme-statements: ""I'd never had a self before, and now I had found it. . . I'd been in a dusty little jail inside my own self ever since I'd been born,"" etc. Still, before this tale is reduced to selfhood clichÃ‰s, it offers strong period-Southern atmosphere, a whiff of true-crime tension, and moments of on-target imagery--in a piece of neo-naturalism that's similar to, if less impressive than, Christopher Leland's Mean Time (1982).
Pub Date: March 29, 1983
Page Count: -
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1983
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