An exceptional, superbly crafted epic novel about the specters–both figurative and real–that continue to torment the American South in the wake of slavery.
Robert E. Lee Taylor, nicknamed Boo, grows up on Sweetpatch Island off the South Carolina coast during the peak years of the Civil Rights era. The adoptive son of the island’s only white doctor, Boo has access to Southern high society, but spends much of his time with–and indeed, is practically raised by–the island’s poor blacks. His vexed adolescence on Sweetpatch–rendered by the author in heartwrenching detail–drives Boo away from his birthplace, and he eventually becomes the owner of a construction company on the mainland. One stormy night, news arrives that his physician father has passed away under mysterious circumstances. Upon his arrival, Boo discovers that his father’s death–just like the violent demise of a schoolboy 20 years earlier–is related to the Beast, a supernatural monster that harasses the island generation after generation. Legend has it that the Beast is the ghost of Joker Tribbit, a black man lynched on the island nearly a century before. Further investigation reveals the mysterious connections that link the life–and death–of Joker to Boo. Like Toni Morrison in Beloved, Fad uses the framework of the ghost story as a metaphorical vehicle for discussing the continuing effects of slavery. As the residents of Sweetpatch are plagued by the ghost of Joker, so too is the American South haunted by the demons of slavery.
In many respects, King of Nod compares favorably to Morrison’s classic tale. His clear understanding of the epic nature of his story’s historical sweep is matched by his keen eye for descriptive detail.