November Read of the Month: “A Hanging at Cinder Bottom,” by Glenn Taylor

Reviewed by Donna Meredith Glenn Taylor’s new over-the-top caper sparkles with cinematic scenes begging to be transformed into film. A Hanging at Cinder Bottom: A Novel (Tin House Books) is primarily set in West Virginia coal country with occasional forays into Baltimore. The white-faced monkey depicted on the cover plays a role in a story […]

“Silent We Stood,” by Henry Chapell

Reviewed by Donna Meredith Extensive research led to a compelling depiction of Dallas, Texas, just before the Civil War in Henry Chapell’s novel, Silent We Stood. The story develops from a fire that destroyed much of the city in 1860, when fear of slave rebellion gripped the South following John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry. […]

“The Splendor of Ordinary Days,” by Jeff High

Reviewed by Donna Meredith With the third novel in the Watervalley series, Jeff High’s talent has matured as he captures the rich tapestry of small-town life – as few contemporary authors have – in The Splendor of Ordinary Days. The author plumbs the depths of the most important bonds of our lives in this heart-warming […]

“Understanding Richard Russo,” by Kathleen Drowne

Reviewed by Donna Meredith Richard Russo is a beloved novelist known primarily for his stories of life in declining northeastern factory towns, so a reasonable person might question why his work deserves space in a literary review purporting to be southern. In short, the University of South Carolina Press recently released Understanding Richard Russo, a […]

“Bull Mountain,” by Brian Panowich

Reviewed by Donna Meredith The ancient story of brother pitted against brother gets a fresh take in Brian Panowich’s debut novel, Bull Mountain, by combining family saga, mystery, and crime with the best elements of literary fiction. The story’s easy yet elegant style, nuanced characters, and gripping plot will earn it many fans. Panowich’s dark, […]

New Fiction on Black Middle-Class Families and Universal Themes

Review essay by Donna Meredith African American fiction writers have, for the most part, overlooked middle-class families as subjects until recently. Stacy Campbell, Lamarr White, and Barbara Joe Williams are among the new authors producing strong novels with middle-class characters and universal appeal. Their protagonists, all educated professionals, struggle with issues like mental illness, infidelity, […]

“Fate Moreland’s Widow,” by John Lane, and “Seam Busters,” by Mary Hood

Reviewed by Donna Meredith We all—well, all of us except Lady Godiva, nudists, and that one infamous Emperor of fairytale fame—wear clothes. Yet most of us give little thought to the mill workers who create the fabrics or the seamstresses who sew them. Two recent fiction releases from the University of South Carolina Press explore […]

June Read of the Month: “Song of the Vagabond Bird,” by Terry Kay

Reviewed by Donna Meredith Novels about male bonding are fairly unusual—unless the band of brothers emerges from war. Armed conflict plays no part in Terry Kay’s latest novel, though the major characters are all wounded. Not by guns or I.E.D.’s. By women. Lost love. Crushing guilt. Georgia Hall of Fame writer Terry Kay has written […]