Hell’s busted loose—literally—in Shibboleth, Ala., and the town’s salvation resides in the form of Nehemiah Trust, reluctant prodigal son.
A chain of events was set in motion when Nehemiah Trust left Shibboleth some 12 years earlier for Senator Honeywell’s offices in Washington, D.C. Seems that Nehemiah, along with his brother, Billy, and childhood friend Trice, were the unacknowledged protectors of all that was good in the dusty Southern town. With Nehemiah’s departure, that shield was broken, giving evil a chance to move in. As the underground springs dry, the skies darken and town folk begin to fade, Trice and Billy fetch Nehemiah from the capital to help set things right. But first, Nehemiah must be brought back into the fold—heart and soul. His aunt Kate (proprietor of the town diner) plies him with fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, peach cobbler; Trice (his unrecognized soulmate) hesitantly voices her premonitions. As Jordan (The Gin Girl, 2003) notes, Nehemiah is the town’s chosen one: “If they’d had a football team, he would have been their quarterback. If there had been a crowning, he would’ve been their prince. . . . Not a soul grew up more adored in this good town.” At least once before, evil visited the hamlet: When John Robert’s house went up in an unholy blaze, Nehemiah, alerted by Trice, called down torrents of rain that saved the building. (Nehemiah passed through the inferno unscathed, and rescued the man who came to be known as Blister.) But this time, the menace is far worse. As the childhood trio enters the underground springs and prepares to battle the unnamed presence within, a Recording Angel stands by to document the conflict. Above ground, the citizens of Shibboleth attempt to correct decades-old wrongs in what little time remains.
What could have been a soppy parable, or prose meant for the converted, is turned into a delight in Jordan’s deft hands. A beautifully written, atmospheric tale.