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VERBENA by Nanci Kincaid


by Nanci Kincaid

Pub Date: May 17th, 2002
ISBN: 1-56512-348-4
Publisher: Algonquin

A touching account of a middle-aged widow who puts her life back together even more spectacularly than it came apart.

“Looking back, it seemed Bena’s life had more or less belonged to her right up until Bobby died and took it away.” From the opening line, Kincaid (Balls, 1998, etc.) makes the direction of her third novel clear. Bena Eckerd is a wife and mother of five in Baxter County, Alabama, and she exhibits a panoply of good country virtues: friendliness, lack of pretense, compassion, and guilelessness. Her late husband Bobby, who died in a car crash along with his mistress Lorraine Redfield, was a good example of southern duplicity but a good man all the same. After his death, Bena devotes herself to her teenaged children and relies on her friends for comfort, but eventually she finds herself drawn more and more to Lucky McKale, her mailman. Lucky is married to Sue Cox, a vehement drunk who gives speeches to schoolchildren on the evils of alcohol, and Bena is a good Baptist not inclined to take up with another woman’s husband—even if that woman is something of a local joke. Eventually, however, love wins out, and Bena and Lucky marry, though their happiness is short-lived. Lucky leaves for California to help his ailing sister check into an experimental clinic in Mexico—and disappears. Meanwhile, Bena’s daughter Leslie falls in love with Lucky’s son Corbin and the two of them run off to Texas. Bena’s daughter Sissy turns up pregnant, the father having just left for Spain on a cruise liner. And Sue Cox herself starts hanging around, asking if Bena has any “word” of her husband. The course of true love is rarely smooth, but does it have to be as rough as a razorback hog?

A bit melodramatic, but a well-told and likable tale nevertheless, in a strong colloquial style that avoids sentimentality.