In her debut collection, Sap Rising
, Christine Lincoln gives us 12 linked stories of life among the black folk of Grandville, a small town in the rural South. Her characters are drawn to the city, but once there, they want to return to the country. Likewise, her prose pulls back and forth: a stark minimalism of form plays against a lush lyricism that reads at times like Southern-fried magical realism. In the opening story, "Bug Juice," young Sonny sneaks out of his bed and glimpses a wider world when his uncle brings a magnificent enchantress to visit from the city. The boy and the woman sit outside on the porch in the dark together, and Sonny comes to a strange new understanding of his own blackness. The whole town, it seems, dreams of escape--from the country, from poverty, from racism, from life itself and all its failures. --Claire Dederer
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From Publishers Weekly
Abandonment and acceptance, city versus country living, and the aching desire for freedom are the themes of the 12 linked short stories gathered here. Gently and skillfully, Lincoln leads readers back and forth in time collecting and juxtaposing fragments of stories set in a town called Grandville, in the rural South. In "Bug Juice," nine-year-old Sonny gets a taste of grown-up dreams and desires when his uncle comes to visit with a city woman "the color of ripened mulberries," who tells him stories about "Af-free-ka." Later on, in "All That's Left," Sonny appears again as one of a group of friends who decide to gang up on a prissy girl, Pontella. Pontella is the daughter of Ebbie Pinder, who runs away from Grandville and returns with baby Pontella, only to desert her three years later. When she realizes her mother isn't coming back, in "A Hook Will Sometimes Keep You," Pontella comes to believe she is turning invisible, though her Aunt Loretta loves her dearly. Lincoln's language can be trite and self-consciously folksy, and her tales fit a little too snugly in the mold of down-home Southern storytelling, but she supports their sentimental trappings with harsher truths. (Sept.)Forecast: Lincoln has already been the subject of a number of feature stories in national publications since she won a major writing prize as a graduating senior and 34-year-old single mother at Washington College in Maryland. A 12-city author tour and national print advertising are supporting this title, but it may fall between the cracks, being too literary for readers of commercial African-American fiction and too soft focus to succeed as literary fiction.
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