Monday, June 22, 2015

Some Sweet Southern Reading

Clyde Edgerton writes Piedmont North Carolina with the sure touch of a man who was born and bred there and has been paying close attention all the while. I just recently uncovered these two gems (while looking for another book) and they have beguiled  and delighted me for the past two days. 

Walking Across Egypt  is the story of Mattie Rigsbee, an independent 78 year old whose life gets entangled first with a friendly dogcatcher and then with a juvenile delinquent on the run, both of whom have a strong yearning for her cooking.  It's not a 'cutesy' novel, but a very funny look at aging and family.  (Mattie is concerned about her unmarried daughter who is dating a 47 year old man -- Mattie wants grandchildren so she asks this putative suitor how his sperm is. That's Mattie.) The novel makes me think of Anne Tyler crossed with Lee Smith -- and that's a high recommendation. 

The Float Plane Notebooks,  Edgerton's third novel, is another study of family --  the Copelands of Listre, NC from the Fifties to the Seventies, with excursions back to the Civil War era -- done from six different points of view, each in the first person. (I read this with particular interest as the book I'm working on has five different first person characters.) Edgerton is a master at character studies and his main characters  jump off the page. Come to that, so do most of the minor characters.

This is a darker more serious novel -- with some skeletons in the family closet, racial injustice, Vietnam -- but it's a compelling read with (small punning spoiler here) an uplifting ending. I finished it yesterday morning and am ready to read it again. 

Raney is Edgerton's debut novel and I'm sure I read  and loved it years ago.  Raney, a small town Freewill Baptist girl, marries an Episcopalian man from the big city. His parents drink and belong to a country club; her parents don't.  But Raney and her fella are both musicians. Will young love and this common musical interest be enough to keep them together?

I can't remember -- it's been too long since I read it. I'm going to have a look around to be sure there is't a copy lurking somewhere before I invoke the Kindle genie.

After seeing the worst of the South in these past few days, I found Edgerton's gentle way with a story the perfect antidote. And he has six more books out there that I'll be looking for too -- after I find Raney.
n E


Ms. A said...

How his sperm is... HAHAHA!

Barbara Rogers said...

Oh goodie, I don't have any fiction at my bedside right now and am glad to have another author (or maybe renew an old acquaintance).

NCmountainwoman said...

I have loved Clyde Edgerton since I read his first book. My favorite is still "Walking Across Egypt" which I tend to re-read almost annually. Makes me laugh out loud every time. And that's a good thing.