A debut literary novel tells the interlocking stories of the denizens of a North Carolina town.
In the South in the 1950s, there aren’t any bars. The rich drink at their clubs or one another’s homes. The poor sip at drink houses. Harry Davis runs a beverage distributor in Winston-Salem, though he also oversees an illegal sports-betting operation with his friend Syd Siddon. One of Harry’s employees, Evelina Starlight “Big Rise” Peak—so called because she is the largest woman anyone has ever seen—is a former prostitute and Social Security check thief. Her younger brother, the simple but sensitive Homer Kenny, works for everybody: “Kenny is the fellow who is there if anyone needs anything—The Master of the Job, the Errand, the Task. He works for many people, does many things, knows more than they think he does and keeps his mouth shut.” Benjamin Franklin “Bo” Winphrie runs a drink house, sells drugs, and thinks enough of himself to adopt the first name of rock star Bo Diddley. After a fight about money, Kenny shoots Bo in the drink house; meanwhile, across town, one of Harry’s well-to-do clients accidentally drives his car onto the railroad tracks and is hit by a train. These two events send shock waves throughout the town, destabilizing the usual way of things in Winston-Salem and bringing its communities—rich and poor, black and white—into unexpected collisions. Glenn’s prose is full of color and motion, as here, during Bo’s murder: “The form of Bo stops moving and yanks like being startled, jerking to the right, a pulling back away like un-huh, no, no you don’t, and then Bo’s chin comes up and down like a fast nod and then he cat-dances back to the bar counter and slumps a little bit, but stays more due north than not.” The book’s cast is large, and the narrative hops between characters every few pages, though readers will eventually get to know everyone and can mostly keep track of them. At nearly 300 pages, it’s a long, dense, and meandering tale, but there is plenty about the author’s sprawling yarn to keep readers entertained.
A lyrical Southern tale of rippling effects.