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WHERE THE CREEK RUNS by Mary Abraham Kirkus Star


by Mary Abraham

Pub Date: May 15th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-692-75923-3
Publisher: Greene Woods Publishing

A debut novel traces the fortunes of a Mississippi family from the 1890s to the 1940s.

The McMolison family of Leaf Creek consists of Bill and Kate and their children, Katherine, Hannah, and Samuel. It is Hannah, the middle child, who carries the story. Early on, Samuel, while just a toddler, is accidentally killed by his brutal, demanding father, and this begins what might be called the McMolisons’ self-inflicted curse. Headstrong Katherine marries Stephen Neal, a preacher whom Bill can barely tolerate. But it is the dutiful Hannah who brings on the real disaster by falling in love with Thomas Stokes, son of Bill’s friend John Stokes. Bill and John are powerful, ambitious men whose word in their families is law. Young Thomas, a student at Ole Miss, is handsome, charming, and callow; Hannah, still in high school, becomes hopelessly smitten. From their one and only carnal encounter, she gets pregnant. The two fathers quickly come up with a plan: a quiet marriage followed by a quick annulment and the adoption of the infant, preferably by a couple far away. The day before a pair from Alabama is due to arrive, Hannah flees with her baby, Joseph, to Katherine and Stephen’s house in Hattiesburg. Bill swears to track them down. Meanwhile, there are family secrets to be revealed.

One would think that Abraham, a talented storyteller, has several novels under her belt, such is the level of expertise shown here. Hannah is a wonderful character who goes against all of her upbringing to defy her father (something that Thomas hasn’t the guts to do). But even more remarkable is Bill. He is a brute and a hypocrite, but perhaps the saddest thing is his rock-solid conviction that his way is the best way, the unquestionable way. He can’t begin to understand that Hannah may not want to surrender her baby so that she can preserve the family and move forward as if nothing had ever happened. (By the way, he sees nothing wrong in being unfaithful to Kate—a man has needs, after all.) Honor—deadly, corrupting honor—is all. The author offers vivid details about this troubled family and the colorful Mississippi setting. Here is a description of the mayhem as Hannah’s puppy, Lost, romps in the bracken: “Brown, shiny bugs crawled over partially rotten stumps and along secret paths under the weeds. Grasshoppers jumped in every direction to avoid Lost’s big paws, and a bevy of birds flew upward from the bushes while chirping strong frustration at the intruder. The rabbits wisely and quickly moved deeper into the woods to get away from the activity.” Minute descriptions such as these are the rule, not the exception. Finally, the last chapters deliver deep satisfaction, chronicling the fates of the various players and bringing readers right up to the 1940s with a Dickensian conclusion.

An impressive tale of a fractured Southern family with richly drawn characters.