From Publishers Weekly
Sanders Royce Collier arrives in the backwater Florida panhandle town of Citrus on Christmas Eve, 1965, to the accompaniment of portentous thunder and lightning. This second novel by Morris (The Total View of Taftly) is narrated by Sanders's teenage son, Roy, who pieces together the history of his father's fateful entanglement with Citrus's Lanier family. Sanders arrived saying he was a South Carolina blueblood recently discharged from Vietnam. He made a splash in the humble town, marrying a local woman named June Lanier. June had social aspirations and was proud of Sanders's supposedly distinguished background, but Sanders soon fell in love with her stunning younger sister, April, who, though sensitive and spirited, was resolutely trailer trash. Less than 10 years after he came to town, Sanders died in what everyone called a hunting accident. Roy, who was seven when his father died, doesn't know about any of this, but he himself develops an infatuation with April. His alarmed family tries to head off disaster by telling him about Sanders's obsession, which involves startling and ugly revelations about Sanders's true identity and his death. There is no shortage of plot twists, though the retrospective narration tends to flatten the drama. More compromising is that April, the novel's fulcrum, whose beauty and charm are frequently reiterated, never quite comes to life. In general, Morris does too much telling and not enough showing when it comes to his characters' development, and the novel suffers for it in spite of his fine ear for prose and dialogue.
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Morris has been compared to John Kennedy Toole (A Confederacy of Dunces,
and, ahem, Mark Twain. Morris' second novel isn't Huck Finn,
but it's very good just the same. The opening set piece is a beauty, full of humor and foreboding. On a December afternoon in 1965, a well-dressed stranger strides into a little town in Florida's panhandle. It is Christmas Eve, and a storm has sent the downtown manger scene flying--"even Baby Jesus went M.I.A." The arrival of the man calling himself Sanders Royce Collier has a similar effect on then-14-year-old April Lanier and the small cadre of townspeople who greet him. However, the charismatic young fellow with the cuff links and the mohair jacket is not at all what he seems. It will ruin none of the suspense of this thoughtfully plotted novel to say that many of the folks of Citrus, Florida, will never be quite the same. In the tradition of his southern predecessors, Morris is an elegant, self-assured writer. His characters are authentic and overflowing with humanity. A genuinely evocative novel. Kevin CanfieldCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved