A WILDERNESS OF VINES by Hal Bennett

A WILDERNESS OF VINES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This first novel is a divertingly original, lively, and curiously pertinent probe of the self-sustaining framework of the social anatomy of racial prejudice. Using as a Main Street refraction the Negro community of Burnside, Virginia, where aristocrats of the lightest skin color took over where the white plantation owners left off, the author, through the character of Charlie, the participant and observer, watches the ""madness of Burnside"" mirroring the ""madness of America."" Attitudes and unhallowed customs are wickedly reflected-- Miss Ida, matriarch of the community, the eternal Virgin Mary in the Christmas pageant, who lives in a white mansion on a hill, who imports a white doctor for her grandchild's ""vaccination party,"" establishes the pace, sketches in the color guidelines. Light-skinned Neva, married from an adoption home, by fragile, elderly Janus Manning, haunted in a different way by the threat of black love and violence, walks slowly toward the rescue of her dying light-skinned husband, measures her days as she raises her boy Gene in ""respectability."" Death and sex, life and love are time and again corrupted into the ludicrous as both blacks and light-skins repel their mutual attraction, violate one another. At the close Gene and a black woman are killed by a mad child who cheerily bobbles adult hatred and Miss Ida is sent away to shell peanuts by the whites who cannot bear their reasonable facsimile. Fresh insights, disturbingly relevant.

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 1966
Publisher: Doubleday