Reviewed by Janice Daugharty
In Niles Reddick’s latest novel, he uses no literary devices or showy language to tell his fresh, simple story of an elderly woman in a little fictional South Georgia town. The main character is Muddy Rewis, nick-named “Muddy” for her childhood passion of patting out mudpies on the bottom of a tin washtub to bake in the sun till done. And so begins Muddy’s sorting of precious memories from her long time on the earth from which her mudpies were formed, in preparation for her endless-seeming cooking for her large family and many friends. Hers is that kind of life.
Simple, huh? Not really. Try taking such an innocent story and narrating it in a surprisingly interesting and titillating way, as Reddick does. No apologies and none needed for this hilarious born-writer. Here’s Reddick conjuring a love-making scene, another precious memory of Muddy’s, between her and deceased husband Claude:
When she caught Claude looking at the nude pictures in the barn, she had crept in, having had suspicions, and he was surprised, walking up to her, rubbing against her legs. She asked him if he needed something different and he told her no, but they had relations in the barn that day, her looking back and hoping the wire on the door stayed on the nail and remained closed, so the children didn’t see.
In the present, Muddy stays tuned in to national and local TV news and intermittent rumors broadcast by neighbors, as well as troubles visited upon her by her three grown children. Each chapter heading in Niles Reddick’s fine novel pays tribute to Muddy’s emotional clashes with self over the futility of trying to fix the entire world. Head-on, she attempts to mete out justice where there is none and bring about peace to her community and family.
Finally, Muddy mulls it all over and checks off in her mind whether she herself has done enough to help change the worst of a worsening world. She’s getting ready “to go the way of all the earth,” as her Bible refers to sure death for all born into the joys and sorrows of living. Are faith, love, clean-living, common sense and compassion only eulogy-worthy qualifications? Or are they enough to drift her onto that heavenly shore?
Muddy’s story may just provide some answers.