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Otha, a sex-obsessed itinerant preacher with a Christ complex, comes to Edensville, in the Virginia mountains, to hold a week of revival services. This quite good first novel tells of his impact on the small town and of the tensions, both personal and community wide, that are explosively released through his presence. Though a whole cross-section of the town is given, interest centers on the Peeler family:- the grandmother, with her clear hates and conversations with God and her dead husband; Ossie, the daughter-in law, perhaps the most pathetic figure of all, who wants to stay in hotels and enter Big Money contests through the magazines; Hubey, Ossie's feeble-minded husband; and Althea, eighteen, a nice girl in love and trying to find out what it's all about. And this is just the beginning of a list of strange, back-country characters, twisted and turned by sex, inbreeding, and a kind of xenophobia. Impending tragedy hangs over the whole book, through the wild revival services, the love scenes, and ordinary neighborly conversations. Even if some of the dialogue is unreal, and some of the stronger sequences which flare up-perter out, this is a quite impressive first try. Mr. Hamner would have a better novel if he had omitted some of the sensationalism and put more emphasis on the smaller, delicately- observed incidents which give the book its most memorable moments.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 1953
Publisher: Random House