Brame’s posthumously published novel of the South offers an evaluation of life in North Carolina during the Great Depression.
The story opens from the vantage point of young Sarah Lynn, a girl about to turn 16, and quickly draws readers into the American South during one of its most repressive yet culturally rich eras. In 1935, Sarah Lynn is eager to grow up, and she falls for a man who her mother believes is too low-class; as a result, the girl is sent to live with her Uncle Orphey. The work contains echoes of Faulkner-ian themes as it frankly and directly addresses issues of class and race in a richly rendered environment. Fortunately for casual readers, Brame’s prose is crisp and clean, and he presents his characters in a straightforward, compelling manner, in a style similar to some of the 1920s-era poets known as the Fugitives, such as Robert Penn Warren and Allen Tate. As the novel’s coming-of-age story emerges, it reveals the South’s darker side of economic hardship and racism. However, it also shows the South as a culturally vibrant region, both socially and ethnically, and as readers encounter familiar-feeling characters—the rich, immoral members of the upper class, a priestess who engages with the supernatural—none of them ever feel like stock types. As the story nears its core conflict of old-guard segregationists versus the good, faithful people of Union County, readers will find themselves engaged by the complex but never intimidating plot. Still, the novel is not without its faults, such as occasionally slow pacing and dated-sounding phrases (“Oh how she missed the humor that had kept them laughing”). That said, readers familiar with the South will recognize Brame’s clear, realistic picture of the region, warts and all.
A fine work of literary fiction that’s reminiscent of earlier Southern modernist texts.