The Measured Man: A Novel

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9780060186548: The Measured Man: A Novel

After a personal tragedy sends him into depression, Walker Fann once again finds a cause for living when he steps in the breach between two Southern communities, torn asunder by the act of a black teen.

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Review:

The southern town of St. Andrews is divided. White residents occupy the bluff overlooking the river; black residents live on the other side of the river, in Cottondale. For 200 years the black and white halves of St. Andrews have coexisted, but now the black townspeople want to put up a slavery museum on the sight of an old slave market in Cottondale--a move the majority of white residents opposes. Caught in the middle is Walker Fann, a mid-level editor at his father's newspaper, which opposes the museum. When Walker is reunited with his old high school friend Raymond Justus, one of the African Americans backing the museum, he is forced to make a choice.

Howard Owen, himself the editor of a southern newspaper, was born and raised in North Carolina and writes authoritatively about the issues that confront today's Southerners, black and white alike. In The Measured Man he explores the conflict of history, tradition, and conscience in a story both satisfying and thought-provoking.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Southern writer Owen (Fat Lightning, 1994, etc.), an editor at the Richmond Times Dispatch, movingly details the moral education of a 40ish white male as he finally tries to do the right thing in his racially divided hometown. St. Andrews is small and seemingly quiet, which suits Walker Fann just fine. A man of decent instincts if timid disposition, he believes in small-town life, but St. Andrews is no Eden. Once a milltown called Cottondale, the name was changed in 1949 after a notorious riot. As the story opens in the early '90s, the people of St. Andrews are about to vote on whether the old slave market should be turned into a museum. The black leadership believe that the change would revive the downtown area; the whites fear it would only revive the past. Walker has led a privileged life, meanwhile: He's the publisher of the local newspaper and a golfing buddy of the town's movers and shakers. Unlike the rest of his circle, though, he has black friends and has long dreamed of becoming a crusading journalist. But he's also always deferred to his strong- willed father, Big Walker, who now fears that the paper's support of the museum will lead to a loss of advertising. Walker's life is described in part by his dead wife Mattie, who drowned a year before the story begins while the two were vacationing in Italy. Using a ghost as a narrator is a potentially creaky device, but it works here. And when the still-grieving Walker, pursuing the young black boy who stole his favorite baseball mitt, finds himself drawn by his black acquaintances R.J. and Rasheed Aziz into a fight he doesn't want to fight--writing an editorial in favor of the museum- -Mattie is there willing him to do the right thing. Which he eventually does, though not before lives are lost and old friendships tested. A journey of the soul that warms and cheers. -- Copyright 1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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