Time could do many things; soften the blow of misaligned teeth, erase a dead girl’s name and fade memories that ought to be forgotten.
One family moves into Germantown, the Picketts, treated with suspicion, disrupting the ways of the founding families. Following in the footsteps of his older brother Marlowe, Reggie buys the old weathered Himmel homeplace, but one Mrs. Honora Brow says to her audience, “Well, I’ll be. Didn’t you feel that chill?” The Brows have always held sway over the people of Germantown, known to be gifted in the art of ‘Prediction’. The woman who holds fast to her ‘gut feelings’ and it doesn’t bode well that the Picketts don’t hold her in high esteem, as do the rest of the townsfolk. Mrs. Picket is never wrong, how dare these inferior people doubt her? But no one could imagine the stink of tragedy clinging to the Picketts and how it would change the entire town.
This is a brutal tale of the ways in which life picks at people, like vultures. It is about what remains to be salvaged in the wreckage, and the ways in which we are tied. Taking place in the Piedmont region of North Carolina during the Great Depression, choices to be made, actions that horrify our sensibilities today were a reality that had to be confronted. The sorrow begins in Chapter 1, with the passing of a child and a large black pot. A people made of stronger stuff, in a time that snuffed you out with any sign of weakness in character.
Quince isn’t the boy Reggie hoped for, he feels robbed of strapping sons to help work the land and carry on the Pickett name and he never let’s Quince forget it. The slight, dreamy boy gets under his father’s skin while his wife Helen knows the boy is of a tender nature, but Reggie must toughen the boy, and it goes back to his own father, “There was nothing more destructive than his father’s displeasure.” And so the cycle continues. His uncle Marlowe is more successful with the right sort of boys, strong, helpful. Everything is much easier for him, and it eats at Reggie to compare their lives, to know his son could never live up to his inheritance, not like Marlowe’s boys. Years pass, Marlowe has plans, banking on Quince’s tragedy, always wanting something from him. The vile, heartless decision just to make money is enough to turn anyone’s stomach. The horrors never seem to want to release Quince, not even with the gentle touch of love to ground him to the present.
Lela is new to town and quickly befriended by young Louise Pickett, but she can’t help but notice her quiet brother, Quince. So begins their relationship that takes them through blinding grief, deep abiding love, the shaky years of college and the uncertain future that waits for them. The Picketts come to define Germantown, not necessarily for the better. Something about other people’s tragedy makes those close to it think they own it. Neighbors are often too near, judging as Honora does from the start, setting the Picketts up with her smug, superior ‘facts’ about that chillingly odd brood, and yet on the flip side of the coin you have Lela’s family and their unwavering support. A tale about the whims of fate from illnesses, war, abuse, birth, love and everything in between.
It’s a heavy read, sometimes you really need to light that match and burn down the painful reminders of your past to ash.
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Southern Fried Karma