IN MEMORY OF JUNIOR by Clyde Edgerton
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The latest generational novel by the author of Raney, etc., eschews his typical down-home high-jinks for a more serious tale of familial reconciliation. This chatty fiction, full of nuances in diction and demeanor, is also an elegy for a dying way of life in the rural South. Edgerton here gives voice to all sorts of regular folk who share a common interest in the fate of the Bales family farm in Summerlin, N.C. The many witnesses in the first half establish (and give their own view of) the events that have torn apart generations of Bales. Glen Bales, a former vacuum-cleaner salesman, is close to death and lost in memory alongside his equally ailing second wife, Laura. His first wife, Evelyn McCord, ran off shortly after their second son (Tate) was born. While Tate's older brother Falson has grown up a no-count ""failure"" with a nasty toothpick habit, Tate himself has become a successful college professor, after heroic service in Vietnam. But despite his career, Tate shares his brother's personal failures; divorce has alienated him from his son, Morgan, a long-haired punk-rocker with a love of computers and a hatred for the provinces. Meanwhile, Laura's daughter from her first marriage, a lawyer with a distaste for ""horrible country people,"" eagerly attends to the elderly couple, hoping to inherit the valuable farm if her stepfather dies first. All hell breaks loose, though, when Evelyn's redneck raconteur brother, Grove McCord, arrives with a crazy plan for his own burial--and colorful tales of bootlegging and carney huckstering. He also reveals the dark family secret--the real reason his sister ran away years ago. AH of which leads to an emotionally satisfying resolution in a novel that demonstrates the truth of Grove's saying, ""You're history longer than you're fact."" Still a master of the comic set-piece, Edgerton here avoids the sentimentality that often marred his earlier work. Good-hearted folk triumph in Edgerton's best novel yet.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Algonquin