THE LOSS OF HEAVEN by Ben Greer

THE LOSS OF HEAVEN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another overly ambitious but compelling offering about the American South from the author of Time Loves a Hero and Halloween. Set in the early 1960's, this chronicle traces the slow decline of the wealthy North Carolina Longstreet family through its old-style matriarch, her grandsons, and black servants. As the decade's turbulence intrudes upon languorous Waverly manor, servants spearhead Woolworth's lunch-counter sit-ins. Meanwhile, Ford Longstreet is elected to Congress under LBJ (portrayed here as a beer-swilling, war-mongering boor); Wink Longstreet--an ill-at-ease Catholic priest--oscillates between his love of pre-Vatican II church hierarchy and equally sincere commitments to the burgeoning civil rights movement and carnal lust; and Starkey Longstreet, serving in Vietnam, witnesses the terminal decadence of French colonialists in Saigon--an apt, if excessive, parallel for Waverly manor, though the book loses steam during these lengthy scenes in Southeast Asia, which Greer evokes far less successfully than North Carolina. The loss Greer refers to in the title is heartfelt. In his voice one hears a genuine fondness for the old South, especially in his evocations of Waverly, servants bustling, its sideboards sagging under the weight of sugar-glazed hams, ribs, hush puppies, cobblers and pecan pies. A little of everything has been thrown into the pot, and at times the tale gets clogged under the sheer weight of historical events. Still, there is much to be savored in Greer's engaging Longstreet family and his depiction of an era characterized as much by loss as by gain.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1988
Publisher: Doubleday