Thursday, June 11, 2015

Catching up on Recommendations--Without Leaving Home

With a condition I have self-diagnosed as book lust, I often find myself buying a new book when I have perfectly good ones sitting, still unread, on my bookshelves.  I can't figure out what makes me start reading one book instead of another.  In fact, the feeling I have when I finish one book and must choose another borders on anxiety as much as eagerness.

Now I've confessed and gotten it off my chest.  I feel much better.

Among the books waiting to be chosen off my shelves are those I've gotten over the years from Lemuria Bookstore's First Editions Club.  Some of the best books I've discovered have come to my mailbox in brown wrappings.  As a result, I've discovered so many great authors and books before Oprah.

Why, then, hadn't I read Suzanne Hudson's novels?  I honestly can't say.  They just had so much competition.  In recent months though, thanks to Shari Smith, author of I Am a Town and contributor to the The Shoe Burnin': Stories of Southern Soul, a few books showed up on my doorstep from River's Edge Media, a small publisher out of Arkansas.  Among them was Hudson's short story collection All the Way to Memphis and her husband Joe Formichellias novel Waffle House Rules, both great reads.

I finally found my way to one of the two novels by Hudson waiting alphabetically on my shelf, In a Temple of Trees.  Set in the South, in a small Alabama town near the Mississippi line, Cecil Durgin a twelve-year-old  black boy raised by a white Jewish family, bears witness to a game gone wrong played by a group of wealthy white men at Camp Doe Run, resulting in the death of the single woman brought in for their entertainment that night.

Though he keeps his secret, Durgin goes on to take his role as owner of the local radio station, inherited from the family that raised him, where he operates as full-time dee jay and radio preacher. Over the course of the novel, the secret that won't go away begins to affect the people around Cecil, including the two girls who befriended him in high school, one the daughter of the wealthy owner of Doe Run, the other, raised in a mobile home by an abusive step father, as well as his loyal wife, a singer he's been promoting--among other things--and the surviving participants in that long-ago game.

The experiences Hudson's characters and endure and survive are often painful for readers, but she doesn't let you look away as she moves the story toward righting an old wrong, bringing not just justice but a measure of redemption.


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