NEW STORIES FROM THE SOUTH by Shannon Ravenel

NEW STORIES FROM THE SOUTH

The Year’s Best, 2005
edited by

KIRKUS REVIEW

The familiar annual celebrates its 20th anniversary with 19 stories that pull their imaginative starter cultures from below the Mason-Dixon Line.

With an introduction by Jill McCorkle, whose account of an exchange with a Northern waiter who tells her iced tea is “out of season” is worth the price of admission, the collection contains seven must-not-miss stories, three by relative newcomers and four by seasoned pros. Stephanie Soileau’s star-turn “The Boucherie,” about a group of Cajun old-timers who conspire to hide an AWOL cow from the authorities while making a refugee family from Sudan (which they all think is in India) feel right at home, is sure to clinch her a first-book contract if she doesn’t have one already. Two other writers to watch, Ethan Hauser and Rebecca Soppe, also offer fiction that feels decidedly rooted in a 21st-century South, with, respectively, “The Charm of the Highway Median” and “The Pantyhose Man.” From the trusty Southern tale-tellers, Allan Gurganus conjures a retired librarian’s path to sexual enlightenment in “My Heart Is a Snake Farm”; Moira Crone reveals the consequences of never saying anything not nice in “Mr. Sender”; Robert Olen Butler solves one of the great riddles of our time in “Severance”; and Judy Budnitz haunts the reader with her story of a Civil War surgeon’s desperate, final act in “The Kindest Cut.” Anniversaries are helpful milestones for pausing and taking stock of traditions to ensure they’re thriving and not headed down a worn path. In that spirit, it’s important to note that several stories here, including work by Gregory Sanders, Lucinda Harrison Coffman and Janice Daugharty, are familiar as kudzu along a Georgia highway.

That said, the pleasures here outdistance the shortcomings by a country mile.

Pub Date: June 10th, 2005
ISBN: 1-56512-469-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2005




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