A dazzling first novel about four generations of fear and longing in the deep South
Who're your people, girl?" It's the song of the South, the big question, persistent and unforgiving. Helene Strickland, daughter of Lafayette County, Arkansas, and lately of the Northeast, doesn't have an answer. Instead, she has memories riddled with half-truths, stories heard in fits and starts, a family history from a family that doesn't know its own past.
In the steamy August of 1976, Helene returns home for her aunt's funeral determined to learn the truth, but her probing yields more questions than answers: Why did her grandmother, Liberty, a cotton picker turned saloon owner, have no name until she was fourteen? Why does Queen Ester, Helene's mother, dress like a child, talk to no one, and refuse to see her own daughter? And who was Chess, a man with a terror of water, a man like a honey trap who drew the women and then destroyed them?
In a mesmerizing narrative, April Reynolds seamlessly weaves past and present, intricate flashbacks and interlaced stories to produce an epic novel of one family maimed by the deepest wounds of history. Rich with legend, poetry, and historic events, Knee Deep in Wonder captures the complex humanity of black Southern life.
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April Reynolds teaches philosophy and creative writing at New York University and lives in New York City. Knee Deep in Wonder, her first novel, received a Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation Award for unpublished work.
From Knee Deep in Wonder:
Sweets was a drifter, twenty years old with no luggage or steady job. By 1914, he had traveled from Tennessee to as far as Oklahoma and Arizona, claiming to have taught the great Bill Pickett everything he knew. Any grandmother could see he was no good, but who could tell that to a girl of seventeen with no people of her own? She heard him first, whistling lightly in the full-grown corn—the sound pricked her ear and she stood up, pushing apart the tall stalks; then she saw him, strolling toward her, his jacket tucked beneath his arm, the corn seeming to move out of his way. He came closer and she dropped the basket she carried, swaying at his nearness. When he stood only a pace away, he sang her hello. Her laughter made him bolder and he took her hand, rubbing her thumb. "Who is you?"
She thought and thought, unsure of what to say, waiting for him to see the blank space of her dilemma and fill it with the name of an old lover, perhaps.
"Girl, you hear me? What's your name?"
She looked past his shoulder. "Lord, Lord, Lord," she panted. She waited for an answer that would not break her heart or her back. Then she had it. Like a ripe peach, ready to drop, the name fell into her lap, beautiful, free of soft spots. The sound of her name almost made her knees buckle.
"Liberty, my name is Liberty."
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Book Description Metropolitan Books, 2003. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110805073469
Book Description Metropolitan Books. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0805073469 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1312401