“The Rising Place,” by David Armstrong

Review by Philip K. Jason The premise of this highly original novel is as follows: A young lawyer has moved to Hamilton, Mississippi to begin his career. His first job is to draft a will for a seventy-five-year old spinster named Emily Hodge. Emily has spent her life in this town. She is well-known, but […]

“Bells for Eli,” by Susan Beckham Zurenda

Reviewed by Philip K. Jason Coming of age narratives, particularly about young women, have long been a staple in the literature of the American South. Zurenda’s marvelous book is a major achievement in this genre. It is deeply moving, troubling, and gloriously poetic. It brings to life small town South Carolina during the 1960s and […]

January Read of the Month: “The Moonshiner’s Daughter,” by Donna Everhart

Reviewed by Philip K. Jason It’s 1960 in Wilke’s County, North Carolina and sixteen-year-old Jessie Sasser has a problem. In fact, she has several problems. One is an awkward and demeaning relationship with her father. He seems remote and silently critical. Jessie has asked him over and over to explain the death of her mother, […]

September Read of the Month: “Moon Water,” by Pam Webber

Review by Philip K. Jason This tantalizing and sometimes frightening coming-of-age story centers on a strong-minded girl of sixteen, Nettie, and her battles with faith, sexuality, and a near-apocalyptic storm. Set in mountainous Central Virginia in 1969, the novel vividly captures the time and place with authority and respectful understanding. An intriguing extra ingredient is […]

May Read of the Month: “The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek,” by Kim Michele Richardson

Reviewed by Philip K. Jason  Readers are likely to find Ms. Richardson’s fourth novel to be one of the most original and unusual contributions they will encounter in the realm of the current literature of the American South. Set in the heart of the Great Depression, this engaging story rests on two little-known historical features. […]

“The Sisters of Glass Ferry,” by Kim Michele Richardson

Reviewed by Philip K. Jason This spellbinding new novel by the author of Liar’s Bench and GodPretty in the Tobacco Field powerfully blends teenage angst, a rich portrait of the American South, the blessings and curses of twinship, and the inevitably destructive nature of secrets. Ms. Richardson provides rich dosses of sensory imagery, emotional stress, […]

“Reckoning and Ruin,” by Tina Whittle

Reviewed by Philip K. Jason I have finally caught up with Tina Whittle’s Tai Randolph Mystery series, now in its fifth installment. Set in Atlanta and Savannah, this tale of crime, family, retribution, and Old South/New South contrasts and continuities has plenty of energy and strong characters. It’s main center of interest, however, is not […]

“GodPretty in the Tobacco Field,” by Kim Michele Richardson

Reviewed by Philip K. Jason Like its predecessor Liar’s Bench, GodPretty in the Tobacco Field is a powerful coming-of-age story complicated by lingering racial prejudice. The town of Nameless, Kentucky is a place where everyone suffers under the heel of grinding poverty, poor education, and images of a ruthless, punishing God from whom family elders […]