Ginny Gall
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Ginny Gall

3.41 (143 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

A sweeping, eerily resonant epic of race and violence in the Jim Crow South: a lyrical and emotionally devastating masterpiece from Charlie Smith, whom the New York Public Library has said "may be America's most bewitching stylist alive."

Delvin Walker is just a boy when his mother flees their home in the Red Row section of Chattanooga, accused of killing a white man. Taken in by Cornelius Oliver, proprietor of the town's leading Negro funeral home, he discovers the art of caring for the aggrieved, the promise of transcendence in the written word, and a rare peace in a hostile world. Yet tragedy visits them near daily, and after a series of devastating events--a lynching, a church burning--Delvin fears being accused of murdering a local white boy and leaves town.

Haunted by his mother's disappearance, Delvin rides the rails, meets fellow travelers, falls in love, and sees an America sliding into the Great Depression. But before his hopes for life and love can be realized, he and a group of other young men are falsely charged with the rape of two white women, and shackled to a system of enslavement masquerading as justice. As he is pushed deeper into the darkness of imprisonment, his resolve to escape burns only more brightly, until in a last spasm of flight, in a white heat of terror, he is called to choose his fate.

In language both intimate and lyrical, novelist and poet Charlie Smith conjures a fresh and complex portrait of the South of the 1920s and '30s in all its brutal humanity--and the astonishing endurance of one battered young man, his consciousness "an accumulation of breached and disordered living . . . hopes packed hard into sprung joints," who lives past and through it all.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 451 pages
  • 157 x 231 x 41mm | 590g
  • Harper
  • English
  • 0062250558
  • 9780062250551

Review quote

"An intricate examination of the coming-of-age of a young black man caught in the cross hairs of American racial history... A story that is equal parts-and often simultaneously-moving and harrowing... The quotidian country world is full of magic in [Smith's] hands."--New York Times Book Review
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Back cover copy

"A harrowing, luminous Jim Crow story . . . Smith writes lushly, with a painterly eye, [as] a riveting protagonist moves through unbearable racial carnage into a kind of legend."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Delvin Walker is just a boy when his mother flees their home in Chattanooga, accused of killing a white man. Taken in by Cornelius Oliver, proprietor of the town's leading Negro funeral home, he discovers the art of caring for the aggrieved and a rare peace in a hostile world. Yet tragedy visits them near-daily, and after a series of devastating events--a lynching, a church burning--Delvin fears being accused of murdering a local white boy and leaves town.

Haunted by his mother's disappearance, Delvin rides the rails, meets fellow travelers, falls in love, and sees an America sliding into the Great Depression. Before his hopes for life and love can be realized, he and a group of other young men are falsely charged with the rape of two white women and shackled to a system of enslavement masquerading as justice. As he is pushed deeper into the darkness of imprisonment, his resolve to escape burns only more brightly, until, in a last spasm of flight, he is called to choose his fate.

In language both intimate and lyrical, award-winning poet and novelist Charlie Smith conjures a fresh and complex portrait of the South of the 1920s and '30s--and the astonishing endurance of one battered young man who lives past and through it all.

Praise for Charlie Smith

"Smith's prose is pitch-perfect and fierce, and I'm always glad to find myself on a ride through his America."--Philip Gourevitch, The New Yorker

"One of the very best prose writers in contemporary letters."--Rick Moody, The Believer

"May be America's most bewitching stylist alive."--New York Public Library

"Mr. Smith writes with a scalding aortal brilliance that leaves the reader drunk on dream, unable to resist."--Seth Morgan, The New York Times Book Review

"The top-ranking Southern novelist of the last several decades."--The Seattle Times

"A mastery such as Smith's is rare, and . . . the bounties furnished are great: pearls of understanding that circle some kind of holy instruction."--Kathleen Alcott, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Lyrical, buoyant, rich. . . . Charlie Smith is prodigiously talented."--The New York Times
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Rating details

143 ratings
3.41 out of 5 stars
5 18% (26)
4 31% (45)
3 32% (46)
2 10% (14)
1 8% (12)
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