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Chalktown Audio, Cassette – Abridged, Audiobook


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Product Details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio; Abridged edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743504569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743504560
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 4.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,656,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The lifeline of Melinda Haynes's novel Chalktown is a rutted, meandering dirt road that winds its way past the murky waterways and through the one-shop towns and backwoods of George County, Mississippi. It's also a red flag to anyone looking for a good dose of surreal Southern gothic. Here is the isolated shack of a disintegrating white-trash family, there the village dwellers who communicate solely by writing notes on the chalkboards in their front yards. One character is grotesquely scarred by an adult bout with chicken pox, while others are eaten up by less identifiable diseases and appetites. Dreams are pursued, discarded, and eerily enacted, always in the sort of luscious, graphic prose you would expect from the author of Mother of Pearl.

Perhaps the term family is a misnomer for the Sheehands, a bunch of misfits drawn together by impulse and wrenched apart by hope, desire, and murder. Fairy, the philandering father camped out in an old school bus, can't extricate himself from the burden of "women and their sticky flaws." His wife, Susan-Blair, is slowly burying herself beneath other people's possessions in her makeshift consignment store, even as she neglects her children and chats it up with the ever-present Christ of her Pentecostal upbringing. No wonder 16-year-old Hezekiah sets off down the road to Chalktown in the opening pages of the novel, carrying his disabled brother in a backpack. His encounters along the way make for a Robert Altman-like series of takes on the bizarre nature of reality in George County.

The literary landscape of the Deep South is, of course, teeming with eccentric characters. Yet Haynes's are so fleshed-out that the reader is left feeling almost crowded, like (to quote Susan-Blair) a "durn closet full a somebody else's coats. Coats put there by people who went on to someplace else, some other thing." The author is no less gifted at conveying a sense of place. She uses the colorful brushstrokes of a painter--which she also happens to be--to imbue this story with a dark, sultry, and unmistakably Southern feel. The result is a captivating, consuming read. --S. Ketchum --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Undisciplined floods of off-kilter prose choke this fitfully lyrical second novel of affliction and redemption in early 1960s Mississippi. Haynes, a Mississippi native and author of Oprah-selected Mother of Pearl, knows the country she describes, but where her first novel sailed, this one founders. In the spring of 1961, 16-year-old Hezekiah ("Hez") Sheehand plans to walk to nearby Chalktown, a hamlet where folks are rumored to communicate only by writing on chalkboards. On his back he totes his mentally retarded five-year-old brother, Yellababy. Behind him, Hez leaves his mother, Susan-Blair, a slattern who hits her children; his father, Fairy, who lives in a bus in the yard; and his older sister, Arena, who has run off with a man who pays her to "work on him with her hands." As Hez nears Chalktown, Haynes slips back in time to 1955 to chart the silent community's history. Eerie as it is, the place is strangely soothing, and Hez wishes he could stay a wish that may be granted when Arena's promiscuity drives Fairy to commit a terrible crime. Throughout, Hez's next-door neighbor, Marion Calhoun, a preternaturally good-hearted "colored man," keeps an eye on the feckless Sheehands. The overwritten narrative features a plethora of figures of speech (sometimes mixed to comical effect), occasional anachronisms and awkwardness in establishing point of view. Convincing dialogue, however, hints of miraculous doings, and a happy (albeit not credible) ending for Hezekiah and Yellababy will appeal to readers not deterred by the narrative's surges and lapses. (May 2)Forecast: Mother of Pearl sold more than half a million copies in hardcover, but this uneven follow-up allotted a $100,000 marketing campaign and a 10-city Southern author tour isn't in the same league (nor, likely, will it be blessed with Oprah's seal of approval). Expect a lesser success.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The characters are well drawn with all main characters having vivid personalities, quirks or charms.
contessa malia
Melinda Haynes did a fine job of weaving together surprising elements and well-drawn characters into a tale that was as bewildering as it was thought-provoking.
Book A Week
She developes her charactors and story lines very well and I'm always anxious to pick the book up and see what's happening.
Judith M. Zullo

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Linda Huson on May 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When I saw that Melinda Haynes had come out with a new book, I almost didn't read it. I had tried reading Mother of Pearl and just couldn't get into it at the time. But I saw a copy of Chalktown at the library and decided (since it wouldn't cost anything) to give it a go. I am so glad I did. I was caught up in the story from the beginning and it was all I wanted to read. Even when I was doing other things, my mind kept wandering back to the book and I was itching to pick it back up. I found the writing to be harsh at one moment and then poetic in the next. I found myself wrapped up in several of the characters and couldn't wait to find out what would happen to them. When one thing happens towards the end (I won't say what), I actually yelled out "oh no"!! Now that I have caught on to Melinda Haynes style of writing and story telling, I am going to start reading Mother of Pearl again. I know I will be happy that I did.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I was very disappointed in Melinda Haynes' second book. I started with great interest and enthusiasm, having found Mother of Pearl such a gem. The story has an interesting beginning, and I was intrigued by the characters- especially a young boy who is severly brain damaged and his brother. After a detailed introduction into this family, and all of its dynamics- the book suddenly shifts to fifteen years earlier. At this point the book looses all explaination. It becomes confusing and uninteresting. The characters lack depth- and there is a mystery that the reader should be interested in but isn't. I have been reading all summer and asking myself "why" with every page that I turn. I am looking at this novel as a short story- forgetting all but the first part of the book. Too bad to be so dissapointed after having been so thrilled by Mother of Pearl.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Duane F. Deraad on July 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The South is known for its incredible women writers - and now, with the publication of Mother of Pearl and Chalktown, Melinda Haynes can be added to that list. Melinda Haynes shouts from the top of a Southern pine with a voice that can, by God, break glass. I've never read anything like Chalktown in my life! I was completely willing to follow Hez and Yallababy to the end of the earth. I can't fathom where in the world Melinda came up with that plot! Chalktown is mysterious, bewildering and surprising. It is also gorgeously written and lavished with the tangled oddities that make the South the South.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on April 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In 1961, Chalktown, Mississippi is a tiny village consisting of mostly a dirt road lined by the shanty homes of sharecroppers. Families communicate with their neighbors mostly through chalkboards that hang off the front porches of their houses.

Just down a spell from Chalktown lives the dysfunctional and impoverish Sheehand family, whose patriarch deserted them several years ago. Abusive mother Susan loosely raises her three children. However, in reality, the nearest thing to positive nurturing is sixteen-year-old teenager Hezekiah, who tries to help his rash sister Arena and his mentally incompetent brother Yellababy.

However, Hez seeks adventure perhaps to hide from his dismal existence. With Yellababy tied to his back, he journeys to the local metropolis of Chalktown, planning to uncover the mysteries of the community as a means of escaping his gloomy present and his ugly past with seemingly nothing but a drab helpless future to come. However, with the hopefulness of the young, he will still seek a brighter future.

CHALKTOWN is a period piece that brings to life the late fifties and early sixties in rural Mississippi. However, the story line is that and more as it is a coming of age tale as Hez finds the eternal optimism of youth that one person can change the future for the better. With this novel and MOTHER OF PEARL, Melinda Haynes is stepping closer to earning the Faulkner mantle of consistent superb writer of the Southern novel.

Harriet Klausner
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By contessa malia on July 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Melinda Haynes is a talented writer! In "Chalktown" she has managed to exceed the skills she demonstrated in her first novel, "Mother of Pearl." The author successfully describes a motley crew of characters with their problems, idiosyncrasies, faults, failings, strengths and charms.
Haynes vividly describes grinding poverty, lack of education and racism. Hez, for example, is largely uneducated. His preference is to skip as many school days as is allowable by the educational system. Yet, for his apparent lack of smarts and social skills, he has heroic qualities. A neglectful family, that can hardly be called a family at all, makes his caring and protectiveness of Yellababy his impaired brother, all the more difficult. Fairy, the ostensible family head, spends more time with his former wife than with his present wife and children. Wife and mother, Susan-Blair, has struggled with alcohol and her main means of survival seems to be her failed entrepreneurial efforts with a consignment business. The family's one daughter is an on-again, off-again runaway who is headed for trouble because of her clandestine relationship with a mysterious county worker.
The characters are well drawn with all main characters having vivid personalities, quirks or charms. Each chapter is short and seems to tease and urge the reader on to find out why "Chalktown" is so odd. Why do folk only correspond via chalk and chalkboard? Why are they so bound together even though some obviously harbor feelings of suspicion and hatred toward one another? AND, who (really) dunnit?
Even the ending is a surprise. A fine read!
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