Let's start by quoting Pat Conroy, that literary god, on the front cover of The Lost Saints of Tennessee, shall we?
A riveting, hardscrabble book on the rough, hardscrabble south, which has rarely been written about with such grace and compassion. It reminded me of the time I read Dorothy Allison's classic, Bastard Out of Carolina.
If it's good enough for Conroy, it should be good enough for me. But, actually, it's not. Neither Conroy nor anybody else is going to tell me what book to like. And, in fact, I didn't like The Lost Saints of Tennessee - I LOVED IT! Amy Franklin-Willis's debut novel is a humdinger. About 2/3 of the way through, I was ready to give it a 3.5, still pretty darn good. But from that point on, especially the last 50 pages, it was simply outstanding. In fact, I basically cried through those entire 50 pages. Yes, I'm a bit of a softy (a euphemism for a blubbering baby). But I believe that everybody would like this book. And some of you, yea, maybe quite a few of you, would shed a tear or 10 in the final pages.
What's it about, you ask? Zeke is a 42-year old who has lost his way. He's got 3 sisters, a mother, an ex-wife, 2 daughters - and a deceased brother, a twin, who still, 10 years later, has a major presence in Zeke's life. His relationship with all of them is just so well portrayed and so poignant (an overused word, yes, but appropriate in this case). Other than his youngest sister, they all live in or around the small town in Tennessee (did you already figure the state out?) Zeke grew up in.
When I'm reviewing a book about relationships, like Beth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and Looking for Me, it's tough to give much detail. Suffice it to say that each and every one of the people mentioned above, plus a few others as well, has a major role in the man he has become. These, then, are the big questions:
Will he find romance again?
Will he (re)connect with his 2 daughters, ages 15 and 12?
Will he ever get over the death of his brother?
And, most important:
Is life still worth living?
People, don't take my word for it. Go to Amazon's ratings. 70 out of 84 people gave the book either 4 stars or 5 (I'm about the only one I know who rates on a 4-star basis; what a rebel I am!). You can't do much better than that.
CONFESSION: This isn't exactly the mini-reviews blog I promised, but it's not the end of the week yet. Chill.