Uneven debut offers a nod to the Southern tradition of oral storytelling.
The main character in these 11 linked short stories is, without a doubt, the town of Concord, Va., which seems to protest the signs of encroaching modernity. In “The Vultures,” for instance, a grief-stricken man who has accidentally shot his wife to death on a hunting trip vows to give up his guns, lest something happen to his twin daughters. But when he arrives home, he finds an infestation of lecherous flying scavengers and has to make a difficult decision. Based loosely on the author’s native Lexington, Concord faces some very real problems. Intolerance runs rampant: In “The Botanist,” a young man literally must go on trial to defend his homosexuality, and “The Builders” opens with Ku Klux Klan members chaining a black man to a natural bridge formation in the Blue Ridge Mountains, leaving him dangling high above the Fork River. The latter tale also features the ghost of Thomas Jefferson, speaking through the hapless Klan victim. Many of these stories twist in such a subtle way that it’s difficult after a while to tell the supernatural from the real.
A patchy collection—sparse in places, repetitive in others.