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Catfish Alley Paperback – Bargain Price, April 5, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Bryant's debut, middle-aged Junior Leaguer Roxanne Reeves throws herself into directing Clarksville, Miss.'s 2002 Pilgrimage Tour of Antebellum Homes and develops, with more trepidation (and community resistance), an African-American Historical Tour. Guiltily admitting to her ignorance of local black history, she asks 89-year-old Grace Clark, a retired African-American school teacher, to consult. Grace takes Roxanne to a part of town known as Catfish Alley; once the lively home of a hotel where Louis Armstrong played, the area is now dotted with warehouses like the one owned by Del Tanner, son of a notorious racist. Unbeknownst to Tanner, his warehouse once housed the first school for black children (and he's not happy when he learns about it). In particular, Grace remembers 1919, when she went to that school for the first time with her brother "Zero," and 1931, when Tanner's father lynched Zero and raped his girlfriend, Adelle, who became the first black nurse at Clarksville Hospital. Though Bryant's approach to narrative is perfunctory, her tale will appeal to readers who enjoyed The Help. The author accesses her own tumultuous Southern history to lend her enchanting tale much local color. (Apr.)
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Review

"Beautifully written and extremely poetic... full of tales of courage and endurance that may bring you to tears with their intensity, this is not a novel you'll soon forget."
-RT Book Reviews, 4 and1/2 stars--TOP PICK

"A tender, wise, unique story of life, love, and southern women, crafted by a skilled writer who understands the struggle to find happiness and the healing power of friendship."
-Lisa Wingate, author of Beyond Summer and Larkspur Cove

"In the tradition of The Help, Lynne Bryant's Catfish Alley tackles the racial divide of both 1920s and current-day Mississippi in a page- turning narrative that has, at its heart, the search for personal connections as the path to both survival and understanding."
-Lalita Tademy, author of Cane River

"Catfish Alley is a bittersweet love song to the union of women, and a heartfelt meditation on the old and new wounds of a South that still must tiptoe, still doesn't always know how to move forward, but is determined to try. Lynne Bryant writes honorably and earnestly about women facing each other and themselves."
-Barbara O'Neal, How to Bake a Perfect Life

"Catfish Alley is Lynne Bryant's first novel -- and in reading it, I feel as if I've stumbled on a rare gem! ...an extremely captivating story that unfolds and will keep you hooked until the very last page."
-Dreamworld Book Reviews

"Catfish Alley brims with humor and pathos in equal parts, with realistic, three-dimensional characters sure to delight and intrigue from the start. Of all the novels set in the South, Lynne Bryant’s debut novel deserves an honored place on any bookshelf."
-Rhett DeVane, Southern Literary Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Trade (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451232283
  • ASIN: B005HKLCB4
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,399,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lynne was born and raised in rural Mississippi, where her maternal grandparents farmed cotton and her mother is one of their fifteen children. She grew up during the era of the Civil Rights Movement and came of age during the volatile integration of Mississippi's schools. Lynne attended nursing school at Mississippi University for Women, graduating in 1981. She completed both a masters and a PhD in nursing and now teaches full-time at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. A lifetime of struggling to understand the complex race relations in Mississippi, a love of storytelling, and a desire to follow humbly in the footsteps of the great Southern writers prompted Lynne Bryant to write her debut novel Catfish Alley. Contemporary stories defined by the context of Southern history continue to intrigue Lynne. College professor by day and writer by night, writing is her way to capture the voices and stories of the American South, the home of her heart.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Actions and deeds often resonate throughout history being felt for generations. Such is the case in Catfish Alley. While working on a community historical project, Roxanne Reeves must deal with the sins of the past and the scars of the present.

Set in modern day Mississippi, the book is interwoven with recollections and memories of the 1930s South. The book deals with race, family, and friendships, both then and now. The characters are genuine and wise. The relationships are full of all that real life is made of.

Even when writing outside her realm of experience, Ms. Bryant's observations are keen and accurate. She has done her homework. She has tried to depict the South with its people and history in a broader sense. She has done it well, and its people proud.
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Format: Paperback
The last two years has brought an abundance of stories from the South and I just cannot get enough of them. I am drawn to tales that are set in the South with the dynamics of race, class, family secrets, history and culture; stories that both entertain and educate me, and most importantly, are well-written. I got all of that in Catfish Alley, a novel by Lynne Bryant.

Roxanne Reeves is your typical southern, wealthy matron, to the manor born--or is she? She has had little contact with African Americans other than to employ them to clean her house or yard. But it seems Roxanne has lots of secrets, her most recent one being, she and her husband of 20-plus years have separated due to his philandering. But her social circle dare not find out because her high standing in the community would surely drop, seeing as it is Dudley's family that comes from the money. But Roxanne has bigger catfish to fry; she has just been mandated by the Pilgrimage Committee of which she chairs, to form an African- American tour. What possibly is there of interest about black people that Yankees and other tourists would want to see? Despite the fact that Roxanne was a history major in college and is a restoration expert, she just does not have a clue of what blacks have contributed to her town of Clarksville, Mississippi, not to mention the country. But if she wants the restoration job of the antebellum mansion, Riverview, belonging to Louisa Humboldt, she needs to form this tour and to that end she makes the acquaintance of Miss Grace Clark.

Grace Clark is an elderly, black, stately former school teacher who is 89 years old, a native of Clarksville and who lives in one of the most distinguished plantation homes of the town. Her first impression is one of resistance.
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Format: Paperback
"Catfish Alley" by Lynne Bryant is one of my top favorite books I've read in the past few months. It has compelling characters you think about long after you've finished the book, and the way the author weaves present-day story arcs into the 1930-era story arcs keeps you very interested. When you're in the present-day part of the book, you can't wait to get back to the history part of the book, and vice versa...so the pacing and "cliffhangers" of each section make for an interesting read. I loved "The Help" and this book reminded me so much of that book. Great read, highly recommend it!
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Format: Paperback
I began to read "Catfish Alley" by Lynne Bryant, thinking it was merely going to be an entertaining book. I did not expect for it to open up rivers of joy and pain inside of me - but that is exactly what this amazing book did.

"Catfish Alley" chronicles the lives of various Southern women, who are smart, intelligent and pillars of strength in their community. It is quite clear with the way author Bryant writes that she is not only familiar and comfortable with the South, but that these stories come from experience. Taking these Southern characters, the author weaves a tale both beautiful and sad.

Roxanne Reeves' life is disintegrating, and she has no friends to reach out to, because she has spent most of her life trying to create a distance between herself and others so that they don't discover her past. When she approaches Miss Grace Clarke, in order to consult with her about a new African-American tour, the last thing she expects is to find an amazing friend who helps her come face-to-face with her own demons. In taking Roxanne Reeves to the different African-American landmarks within the community, Grace sets the wheels in motion to relate the story of African-American's in 1930's Mississippi, that changed the lives of Grace, her friend Adelle, Junior who was the love of her life, and Zero, her brother. As the story unfolds, the reader is shown both the prim and proper ways of the Southern belles in her circle, and the impropriety of some of these same families in the past; especially in regards to racism.
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Format: Paperback
I am still enjoying Lynne Bryant's first novel Catfish Alley (it is actually sitting on my desk, ready for me to dive back into it as soon as I finish posting this!), but I just couldn't wait another day to tell you about it. It released a couple of weeks ago, and with the craziness that is state testing and field trips and fundraising for our school's Relay For Life team, I still haven't finished it. That is not to say that I'm not enjoying it, though. Because I am -- immensely. In fact, somewhere around page 200 last night I began to realize just how much I am enjoying it.

It may not have been smart for me to read it on the heels of Kathryn Stockett's The Help. Although fundamentally different books, the subject matter of Catfish Alley is similar enough that I almost felt a kind of burnout for a few days while reading it and listening to The Help at the same time. I finished The Help almost a week ago, and then I sandwiched in a fabulous L.A. mystery (Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark, with a review coming up tomorrow!), so I was sufficiently ready to dive back into the south and race relations.

Catfish Alley is set in Mississippi, in the fictional town of Clarksville, which I assume is based on the real town of Columbus. Why do I assume this? Well, there is an actual Catfish Alley area in Columbus, so the pieces seem to fit. Decorator and main character Roxanne Reeves specializes in reviving antebellum homes to their former glory, using time-period-appropriate methods and materials. She also is the director of the annual tour of homes in Clarksville. When a newcomer to town purchases an old mansion Roxanne has had her eye on for years, Roxanne falls all over herself to please the lady. Her first request is that historical African-American homes be added to the tour.
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