A pricey pleasure for readers of southern fiction: 19 stories from the Fellowship of Southern Writers showcasing a variety of talents and styles that rarely fail to engage the reader's appetite for rich tales well-told. The expected concerns are all on display here: race relations, regional history, death, and that sturdy southern interest, women's lot (five of the contributors are female). Shelby Foote, a peerless historian of the Civil War, provides a wonderful 18th-century tale, "The Sacred Mound," about Native American struggle and spirituality. In "Tombstone," Lewis Nordon sketches a transplanted southerner's curious obsession with a native tombstone. Jill McCorkle's "Life Prerecorded" delivers a splendid, journal-style account of a woman's pregnancy and subsequent motherhood. And in one of the strongest selections, Allan Gurganus offers a pair of letters informing a mother of her son's death in the Civil War—one by the son himself. Throughout, there is very little distracting irony, and authorial mannerisms are rarely intrusive; if it is too much to say these are earnest stories, they are for sure earnestly written, with a refreshing purposefulness about them. Even as Madison Smartt Bell starts the collection off in familiar territory—a man awakens hung over in his seedy apartment to shoot at a bedside rat—such moments, in their fluent, easy telling, hardly seem gimmicky.
A strong collection from a gathering of accomplished writers who have more than their style to show.