A NovelBook - 2001
Melinda Hayness "first novel of immense and staggering power" (Pat Conroy, author of Beach Music) was an unexpected sensation, chosen for Oprahs book club and selling more than half a million copies in hardcover. Now in the same devastatingly beautiful language that has won her critical and popular acclaim, Melinda Haynes returns to the country she knows so well -- the backwoods South of the 1960s -- to tell the story of a mysterious town and its inhabitants, each with their own afflictions and joys, each with their own secrets.
In sparsely populated George County, Mississippi, along a quiet dirt road lined by sharecropper houses, lies Chalktown -- a small village of folks who communicate mostly through the chalkboards hanging from their front porches. Down the road lives the Sheehand family: 16-year-old Hezekiah, his reckless sister Arena, his mentally disabled younger brother Yellababy, and their disaffected and often cruel mother, Susan Blair, whose husband has abandoned both the house and the family. One day, with Yellababy strapped to his back, Hez sets out for Chalktown, determined to plumb its mysteries, or maybe just to get away from his shabby homes oppressive atmosphere. And, on that same spring day, the family hes left behind will confront a tragedy that at once erases Hezs bitter past and paves the way for a hopeful future. Armed with a gothic and spiritual sensibility reminiscent of Flannery OConnor, Melinda Haynes weaves her characters lives and stories into an unforgettable tapestry of sorrow and salvation that confirms her place as one of our countrys most exciting and consistently brilliant new writers.