THE ROCK CRIED OUT by Ellen Douglas


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Douglas (Where the Dreams Cross, Apostles of Light) always brings strength and passion to her novels of the contemporary South, but here her effective detail work is somewhat undermined by weakness in her ambitious overall design. Alan McLaurin is coming back to the family land in Homochitto County, Mississippi, to live alone in an old slave-quarters that he plans to renovate; and this homecoming is in effect a pause between Alan's fading Sixties' existence--his very un-Homochitto County conscientious-objector status, his time living up north in Boston--and whatever the Seventies, just beginning, will bring. He soon asks his Boston girl, Miriam, to join him--and the racially, ideologically balanced cast is filled out by the addition of Alan's non-conformist Aunt Leila and the black tenant farmer, Sam Daniels (once Leila's lover). Discovered hanging around Chickasaw Ridge is also an old boyhood friend of Alan's, Lindsay Lee Boykin, now a hip, leftish photojournalist whom we eventually discover is making up for his redneck past and for a 1964 crime committed by his brother Dallas, himself currently repenting for his guilt by being a Jesus freak. Douglas is comfortably specific about her material and locale--her imaginary county is by now richly and densely real--but she runs into serious trouble by casting long passages of personal revelation in the ungainly mode of taped oral histories. And the climax, a fess-up over CB radio to all and sundry, is even more unlikely and overheated. Thus, much of the emotional worthiness in the characters and themes here is lost in Douglas' contrived pacing, choice of devices, and structural infelicities; but, however flawed, this is serious, solid work from a faithful chronicler of the scarred, changing South.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1979
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich