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With deeper conviction than in his first novel, The Acorn Plan (1988), McLaurin again focuses on characters in a small southern town who straggle with the forces of social convention. Here, it's an eccentric melon-farmer and his lover--a pretty, black ex-hooker--who have to stand their ground not only with local townsfolk, but also with an invasion of yuppie neighbors who fervently believe in racial equality and ripened brie. Woodrow Bunce, the youngest son of the town's wealthiest family, has always been different. He was born weighing more than 14 pounds, and, as a grown man, he spends many cold winter nights hunting the hills, chasing after his hounds and blowing a trumpet. Still, nobody is quite prepared when he suddenly begins living with Nadean Tucker, a black woman only recently returned from up North, where she was a prostitute and junkie. But it becomes clear that love is working wonders for the couple, and, after a while, the furor dies down--until Woodrow begins his construction project. It seems that Nadean has always dreamed of living by a beach, so Woodrow, determined to grant her wish, sets out to build her one, complete with trucked-in white sand, plastic flamingos, and an enormous live palm tree that Nadean lovingly nurses through the chilly spring nights. In short order, the neighboring yuppies, who recognize tacky when they see it, mobilize to have Woodrow's yard debeached--and the ensuing town-versus-gown battle ends in tragedy. McLaurin's characters--especially the yuppie types--border on caricatures, but there is a gentle insistence to their story that makes it stay with you. Long after it's all over, the strains of Woodrow's trumpet still haunt the air.

Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 1989
Publisher: Norton