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.
Ask any man what the only good thing about George County is and he will likely tell you this: the only good thing about George County Mississippi is that it's so full of flat nothingness that nobody, not even Jesus, can sneak up on a body.
Excerpt from Chapter One
By the old pump shed, near where the holy yokes leaned, the late winter grass was worn down as old brown velvet. Slick and near napless, the path seemed straight and narrow as any good preacher might preach, for behind the trail sat his mother's house, spread out and pieced together, misshapen as sin. If ever there was a clear picture of salvation in Hezekiah Sheehand's mind, the worn-down strip of dirt stood to paint it. His brother strapped to his back, he reached around and patted the five-year-old's leg and wished Yellababy could smell the warmish winter air and appreciate it, or even notice the odor of goose shit muddying up the ground and make a face at that, but smells were ...
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