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"