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DEATH IN EQUALITY by Lucinda Ebersole


by Lucinda Ebersole

Pub Date: March 12th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15106-3
Publisher: St. Martin's

A would-be writer finds cancer instead of a publisher in New York; she goes back to Alabama to die, but storywriter and anthologist Ebersole (Mondo Barbie, 1993, etc.) keeps her character alive long enough to inject a few poignant anecdotes into this otherwise maudlin first novel. Embodying the modern belief that only in many voices can one find truth, dying Cordelia takes shape through her conscious, her unconscious, and her self-specific omniscient narrator (``Without Cordelia, I cease to be omniscient''), making a desperate effort to tell all she knows. As the seventh (and last) of the name Cordelia in her family to die in the small town of Equality, she is part of a rich matrilineal heritage, the possessor of her predecessors' memories as well as of her own. But she is also the end of her line. Not inappropriately, most of her recollections concern other deaths: the brave, proud black woman Cora Johnson, visited on her deathbed by the now-famous writer Jane, whom Cora rescued from her white-trash family and inspired to become a storyteller; Adam, a bright young boy who learns about fireworks from the town's only Chinaman, then blows himself up within a few days of his mother's giving him his first chemistry set; bored young Mary Elizabeth, who drags a sister and her friend to see the local psychic: The old woman refuses to tell Mary Elizabeth about her future, sensing that the young woman will soon die. Intermixed with these tales of woe are Cordelia's brief encounters with the living: her visiting nurse, dispensing painkillers and geography quizzes; old Doc Campbell, himself dying of cancer; and her ex-lover from New York, who followed her home against her wishes only to sit helplessly by as she fades away. Engaging character sketches in the time-honored tradition of southern gothic, although the more contemporary conceit that binds them here is loose and ineffectual.