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EVENINGLAND by Michael Knight Kirkus Star


by Michael Knight

Pub Date: March 7th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2597-2
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

A quiet, beautifully modulated group of six short stories and a novella set in or near Mobile, Alabama.

Knight (The Typist, 2010, etc.) focuses mostly on characters who belong, as he says with gentle irony, to "the right kind of Mobile family." These are for the most part white Southerners working with—and sometimes against—hereditary privilege: an older generation of male real estate moguls, shipping magnates, lawyers, marina owners and their well-meaning but insulated children, who must grapple with the shadows thrown by these gruff, un-self-conscious self-made men, who, as one of the younger generation puts it, "could take up space like nobody in the world." Knight's style is deceptively plainspoken, with low-key wit and a laconic precision that often ripens, as a story proceeds, into poignancy. One standout, "Jubilee," focuses on a middle-aged bourgeois cliché, a 50th-birthday bash at a grand hotel, but does so with such deftness and delicacy that the reader is ambushed, in the end, by mingled envy, pity, and empathy. As Dean and Kendra walk along the boardwalk toward the party and spy their assembled friends inside, there's a frisson of nerves, a kiss quickly wiped away, and finally a bittersweet revelation, half joy and half caution: "They must stay this course until the end." But the centerpiece and triumph of the collection is its closing novella, Landfall, which tells with enormous finesse, speed, and concision, like a family saga in demi-glace reduction, the mingled stories of a shipyard-owning family—the widow of the paterfamilias, her daughter and two sons, the daughter's two daughters, one son's beloved dog—as a hurricane bears down on Mobile.

From a distinguished Southern writer, a very fine collection capped by a masterful novella.