When you go back home, can you really put the ghosts to rest? Can you at least save some lost souls?
In Black’s (Perfect Peace, 2010) sequel to his debut novel, They Tell Me of a Home (2005), Dr. Thomas L. Tyson (TL) returns home less than an hour after leaving. Back in Swamp Creek, Ark., TL is faced with several mysteries and challenges. Distraught over his sister’s untimely death, he worries about the role his adoptive mother, Marion, may have played in Sister’s death. Saddened by the death of his birth mother, Ms. Swinton, he wants to prove himself by taking over Ms. Swinton’s role as the teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. Marion challenges him to become a real man and determine his own fate, but TL must first rid himself of ties that pull him away from Swamp Creek, namely his neglected girlfriend back in New York and his best friend, George, who is desperately in love with him—and perhaps TL is in love with George, too. The town misfit Cliffesteen offers TL another mystery to solve: What happened to her Aunt Easter, a woman the townsfolk feared as magical? Once established as the new schoolteacher, TL accepts the responsibilities of not only educating the children of Swamp Creek, but also of rescuing one particular young boy from his abusive and sexually bigoted father. Further complicating matters, TL is hallucinating a city of gold marked by 12 gates, and Cliffesteen claims Sister is there. So many plot strands quickly overwhelm Black’s novel. Interspersed chapters in Sister’s otherworldly voice attempt to explain God’s plan for TL, yet not even Sister resolves the mysteries presented here.
This novel could have been a magical tale of spiritual discovery, yet it buckles under the weight of its own complexity.