HELLO DOWN THERE by Michael Parker


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 Southern writer and first-timer Parker combines a lyrical style with a fully articulated social world--in a tale of love and betrayal, ambivalence and desire, and guilt and addiction. Set in small-town 1950's North Carolina, this sordid melodrama transcends its pulpy roots in period novels of drug addiction. Edwin Keane's charmed life falls apart one night when he drives his car off a back road, killing his fiancÇe. Son of the town's bigwig, this ``handsome, healthy college kid'' descends into a nether world of morphine use, ostensibly for his injured back. Protected in ``narcotic complacency'' by his family and friends, Edwin moves into a cabin owned by his parents and harasses the local pharmacy to increase his dosages. But the assistant pharmacist, moved partly by class resentment and partly by a desire ``to save'' Edwin, refuses to indulge his pain and self-pity. Obsessed by his vision of the accident, Edwin is finally stirred by a new sight: a beautiful girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Despite her white-trash origins, Eureka Speight is no ordinary teenager, but a bright and dreamy angel of ``ethereal fleetness''--and better than morphine in Edwin's view. With the help of Eureka and the pharmacist, Edwin kicks the habit in a Kentucky clinic, only to return back home where all his problems resurface--not just his memory but his oppressive mother, his indifferent father, and all the responsibilities of his class. The pharmacist and Eureka's father conspire to return the young woman to her rightful place at home, and enlist her brother Randall, a loquacious and incorrigible Huck figure whose innocence is exploited to this end. There's much texture to this haunting tale of sin and redemption, of sacrifice and punishment, making it more than a story of star-crossed lovers. Much like the hothouse Faulkner of Sanctuary, with the same bitter humor and nihilistic denouement.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-684-19424-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1992


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