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The View from Delphi Paperback – August 21, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 510 pages
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage; First Paperback Printing edition (August 21, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596921447
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596921443
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #718,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prejudice threatens to tear apart a small Mississippi town during the 1950s in Odell's first novel, a well-told but familiar and slow-moving story about a pair of families who find their lives altered by the bigotry of a small-minded sheriff. Hazel Ishee Graham is a backwoods farm girl who uses her beauty to attract Floyd Graham, the ambitious man who becomes her husband and the most successful car salesman in tiny Delphi. On the other side of town, preacher Levi Snow and his daughter, Vida, are being harassed by the cartoonishly piggish sheriff, Billy Dean Brister. The sheriff, who uses the influence of the local senator who got him elected to keep the populace under his thumb, rapes Vida and terrorizes the family after her child is sent away. Meanwhile, one of Hazel's two sons is killed in an accident, and Hazel indulges her proclivities for fast driving and strong spirits, crashing into a life-size nativity scene. This prompts Floyd to hire Vida as a maid to keep Hazel under control. In a series of parallel subplots, both Floyd and Billy Dean have affairs with the senator's comely daughter, Delia. But the pace crawls when Odell lingers over mundane scenes of daily life in Delphi, and flabby prose mutes the novel's dramatic climax. Odell clearly knows his setting and shows obvious compassion for his characters, but the combination of extraneous scenes, too many Southern stereotypes in the character roster and an overly familiar plot keeps his debut ploddingly earthbound.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The lowlands of Delphi, Mississippi--a small town in the pre-civil rights era-- hold the cotton fields of the wealthy and the shanties of the black sharecroppers who serve them, in. The homes of the town's white citizenry sit on higher ground, reflecting the rigid racial and social stratification. Underlying the social stratification are layers of emotional and relational ties that bring together two women struggling to recover from the loss of their sons. Hazel Graham, who came to Delphi from the Appalachians with her ambitious husband, Floyd, is gradually losing herself to alcoholism and medical sedation. Hazel's maid, Vida, a lifelong resident and daughter of a local minister who has fallen from the favor of the powerful senator, is simmering with vengeance and determined to find her lost son. With the commonality of their loss and the sense of invisibility within the constraints of the small town, the two women move from loathing to mutual reliance and finally friendship on the eve of social changes seeping into the South. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

An epic novel, both engrossing and poignant, about freedom, identity, and resurrection of the spirit in the pre-Civil War South.

Insane with grief at the death of her daughter, plantation mistress Amanda Satterfield steals a newborn slave from its mother, christens the infant Granada, and presents the child in her own daughter's clothes at public events, much to the outrage of her husband, whom she blames for her daughter's death. Seeing no ordinary remedy for his wife's madness and terrified of losing his slave population to a mysterious plague, Amanda's husband purchases Polly Shine, a thorny old healer whose sharp tongue and seditious predictions unsettle and enrage the plantation. Is Polly a clever charlatan, meddlesome witch, or divine redeemer?

When Polly recognizes "the gift" in Granada, now a willful, house-raised slave of twelve, a battle of wills erupts that persists over four generations and the most decisive moments in American racial history. Will Granada come to terms with her history, her people, and her destiny?

Grounded in exhaustive research and interviews with descendants of slaves and slave owners, The Healing weaves together the lives of three strong women into a powerful and poignant saga, a testament to the potential of story to heal the soul of a people.

JONATHAN ODELL is the author of the acclaimed novel The View from Delphi, the story of the struggle for equality in pre-civil rights Mississippi, his home state. His short stories and essays have appeared in numerous collections. He spent his business career as a leadership coach to Fortune 500 companies and currently resides in Minnesota.

Customer Reviews

The characters were interesting and well developed.
Besides being masterfully written it unfolds a story that is poignant, and meaningful resonating with spirit, emotion, tenderness and more.
While the story was good, it moved along slowly and developed slowly.
Linda Demaree

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't disagree more with the Publishers Weekly review. I found Odell's story of race, family and mid-century southern life engaging, fast-paced and moving. This is a remarkably literate first novel with an extraordinary sense of place, time and character. Dark humor permeates the story, and yet Odell never concedes to condescention or cynicism. His characters are archetypal without ever becoming stereotypical. Coming at a time when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Brown v Board of Ed, and when the federal government has agreed to re-open the murder case of Emmett Till, this novel has an immediacy and relevance to the present. If you're looking for a refreshing change from the Hollywood-Action-Movie-Styled blood-and-violence potboilers that fill bookstore stacks this time of year, this is the novel to read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Victoria Bynum on December 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
I am an historian of the South, and don't often read novels. But when I sat down with Jonathan Odell's story about Civil Rights Era Mississippi, I was transported back to a very real, rather than fictional, period of our past. In short, Odell writes the kind of fiction that makes history come alive. He is a master of dialogue, revealing a keen understanding of human character in its various styles of expression. Can a white southern male write a believable story about white and black women communicating across the divide of racial segregation and violence in the Jim Crow South? Odell does just that, with an achingly sensitive portrayal of Johnny, the white son of Hazel, to help readers make the journey with them. Hard to believe this is Odell's first novel!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Laura K on November 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A member of my book club chose this book and I took it with me on vacation. I was thinking I was going to "struggle" through it since it wasn't the typical quick-light vacation read!


I couldn't put this book down. Every night, while cruising the Mediterranean I couldn't wait to read this book!! It is a true reflection of the attitudes of the south, and conveys the subtle dynamics between people. I was transported from my cruise to the south!!

This book is one of our all-time favorites...we have also loved reading Barbara Kingsolver- The Poisinwood Bible, The Red Tent, The Lovely Bones, Anna Karinana, White Oleander, Memoirs of a Geisha, etc.

The View From Delphi stands up to all of these in a mesmorizing and memorable manner! ENJOY!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By H. Lysne on June 25, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's been weeks since I finished "Delphi" and it's still with me. The story captured my attention immediately, and the characters jumped from the story into my consciousness to stay. Jonathon O'Dell is one to watch. His next book "The Healing" is due out in February 2012. I will have my copy reserved.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
After running away from her poverty-stricken, hardscrabble family life in the rugged Appalachia mountains, Hazel Ishee finds employment in a drug store, until she meets her future husband, a young man from a similar background, with dreams of his own. The industrious Floyd sells machinery all over the Mississippi Delta, eventually realizing his aspirations, when he moves his family into the upper-class neighborhood he covets, anxious to belong in that society. Meanwhile, Hazel struggles with overwhelming feeling of inadequacy that leaches the enjoyment from her comfortable days. Even their two sons cannot relieve Hazel`s downward spiral, which is only alleviated by the alcohol she drinks excessively. The drinking brings a whole new set of problems for a woman unprepared to deal with a successful marriage and comfortable lifestyle.
Vida's disillusionment is of another kind. A young girl from a prominent black Delta family, Vida gives birth at fifteen to the child of a white man, tormented by her sense of disgrace she brings to her family. Vida's father is the local preacher, full of fine words, until faced with the reality of his daughter's illegitimate child. When the biological father of Vida's baby is appointed sheriff he wants the child out of sight, afraid of the damage to his reputation and his political aspirations. Vida's family's fortunes fail and she is haunted by the loss of her baby. She and her brother are forced to work the land they once lived on.
The years pass, and Vida is hired as a maid to the incompetent Hazel, who has also lost a son; Vida's primary duty is giving Hazel the medication that sends her spoiled charge spinning into oblivion every morning, yet the two women's mutual need is the closest thing either has to friendship.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 26, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Odell's novel, "The View from Delphi", like "Gone With the Wind" was a time machine that transported me to a society and a world I have been reluctantly curious to visit. Through the eyes of outsiders, Odell contrasted the landowner's life with the life of post-slavery African American sharecroppers / laborers. It took me into the shanty town, under porches, behind bushes, down dirt roads and up the dark stairs of great houses - allowing me to explore the subtle control that was established by slavery and maintained as African American's tried to work off what they owed wealthy white landowners for their sustenance.

I observed how those in power dogged the less powerful white community to assist in maintaining and escalating control of the African American community so as to maintain the wealth and power generated by exploited African Americans labor. I appreciate how well Odell wove several threads into a complex story that involved a cast of more than 20 characters - some lovable and some despicable - that gradually heightened the readers sympathy against the painful oppression. He did it without the use of gratuitous violence, though he carefully steered us past situations, providing us with enough understanding to appreciate the depth of trauma inflicted without dragging us through it or exploiting the harm done to people in order to sell his book.

Odell also provided allowed a glimpse at the balance of power between the men and women of the great houses and provided an amusing example of how a once powerful man who overreached his power could face a quick demise. Though the book was 509 pages, I wasn't ready for it to be over when I turned the last page.

As I continue to reflect, I wonder if this master storyteller could craft a story to help us all understand how we are dogged today to support an exclusive society and thus continue to foster a Eurocentric advantage for economically powerful.
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