From Publishers Weekly
A kind of old-fashioned South its quiet dramas of love, death, religion and race relations lies at the heart of Brown's competent second collection (after Tongues of Flame). "I don't guess you could say `yes, ma'am,' could you?" aging belle Rose Merriweather asks her black nurse in the first of 11 stories. "Would that set back the whole Movement?" Etta resists (though she does allow Rose to call her Henrietta) and their growing friendship is a delicate reminder of the passage of time that has changed the status of them both. Social and emotional transitions act as the crux of several other stories, as well. In "A Meeting on the Road," a white lawyer laments his exclusion from the politics of a town whose population has become increasingly black while recalling his childhood friendship with one of the men who has just fired him from the County Commission a man whose mother was the lawyer's "mammy." In "Once in a Lifetime," waitress and divorce Edythe embarks on a new love at the moment her adolescent daughter, Denise, begins to rebel; Edythe's hopes for her daughter's future and her own are dashed when Denise becomes pregnant. But "even disgrace wears thin, wears out," Edythe realizes, "and begins to fade like glory." Brown's world is one of small towns in which visitors are welcomed with homemade poundcake and coffee, God is discussed as often as the weather and rumors function as essential conversational currency. Though her collection is not striking, it is an effective portrait of a time and a place in which broad change was felt through small, personal experiences, was seen the way a face might be when reflected in a distant mirror.
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Brown, an award-winning short story author whose last collection, Tongues of Flame
, was published in 1986, here shows that the past 16 years have been well worth the wait. These delicate and finely wrought stories examine the many strata of white southern culture: customs, mores, and changing relationships with the surrounding African American population. In one, an elderly southern belle must confess her less than stellar performance as a mother to the young black nurse who now cares for her. In another, Brown details the near catastrophic effects the purchase of a new TV has on a struggling farmer's marriage. Her characters are pragmatic and recognizable, from the widow who regains her will to live by fending off the advances of a fundamentalist church group to the well-intentioned professor's wife who clumsily reaches out to her less fortunate neighbor. Brown's rueful and contemplative stories quietly gain momentum so that their conclusion leaves the reader with an unexpected emotional wallop. This collection will appeal to fans of southern literature. Brendan DowlingCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved