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A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage Hardcover – March 30, 2012
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
Youmans' evocative writing and colorful characters make this novel a rare pleasure that beautifully depicts the power of love. -Arsenio Orteza, World Magazine 3-13
"A beautiful novel, one to read more than once." --Amanda Cockrell, "The Hollins Critic" June 2012
"I agree with one reviewer that said this is destined to be an American classic." --Nancy Olson, from Quail Ridge Books "Quail Mail" 638
What Pip does with all his might-have-beens and what he does with what-just-is is lovely to behold. What Youmans does with only words is beautiful to see.
--Linda McCullough Moore, Books and Culture
One of the best novels of 2012, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage is a moving and powerful novel of the religious experience, the longing and the search for God's presence in the world, without ever once speaking religion's dirty name.-D.G.Myers, A Commonplace Blog
Youmans tells Pip's story in her lyric, poetic voice, offering vivid characters and unforgettable scenery. The tragedy that begins the story is almost lost in the general misery that was the Great Depression, but the fire of memory burns steadily in Pip and keeps the plot simmering to the end of the book. --Greg Langley, The Baton Rouge Advocate
Much to delight a reader in this novel, an abundance of riches... Youmans's prose is highly metaphoric, rich in evocations that reverberate profoundly...Youmans spins a captivating yarn. Her voice is expressive and cajoling Commonweal 6/13
From the Author
Although I am one of those writers who tends to prefer the joy of making everything up, this book--my ninth--has strong connections to family and family places. The orphanage on a sharecropper's farm in the early part of the book is a rendering of my paternal grandparents' flimsy house and sharecropped farm near Lexsy, Georgia. I spent part of every summer there in my childhood. I also spent a great deal of time in Collins, where my maternal cousins and I loved to race to the railroad tracks and wave to the conductor or leave dull pennies on the rail to be transformed into bright copper. Other connections? My great-grandfather, Nathaniel Yeomans/Youmans had 22 legitimate children and also brought up two mixed race sons in his family after the death of their mother. One of those children was my grandfather's favorite brother in childhood. These were facts that I learned as a young adult, and they surprised me greatly--and taught me that no individual experience is quite like what we encounter in school history books. Also, my father's line is strange neurologically, and I am very well acquainted with the sorts of issues that plague Pip in his growing-up. After finishing the book, I realized that there's another sort of connection to the book. I spent my childhood being moved from place to place in a rough circle around the United States. After six years West and North I came home to the Carolinas, where I was born. Pip's journey in the book has certain parallels to that long journey. And I am afraid that a certain teacher, one who thought I surely must be retarded because of my s-l-o-w Southern drawl, may have had some degree of influence on the portrayal of Mrs. Ogrens. I tried to keep her out, but she insisted.
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You see the deft, confident use of language very early in the work; like a good film director, Youmans knows how to set the scene. And though the language may get a little less poetic as the needs of storytelling and plot movement later in the book take center stage, it is never anything less than stunning. You will find yourself crawling willingly into the mind of Pip, the protagonist with a twist, because you fall so willingly into the cadence of his thoughts and experiences.
Is there a flaw in this book? I can't find it. Maybe a professional author or academic could sift through and find a nit, but as an experienced, educated lover of books, I cannot. It's not too long, nor is it, more crucially, too short. I don't need a sequel. I am satiated with its exact beginning, middle and end. Characters and places flow through the story and delight, or haunt, as they need to. The period setting, the death that drives Pip onto the iron road ... every little piece comes together as it should.
This is a genuine American classic, and since that sounds like such a cliche, I use it carefully, but it is genuinely deserved. Buy it in hardcover, because you'll want to keep it. I have other books on my reading list to get through, and that pile will never be emptied, but I guarantee I will read this book again.
Finally, the curse of racial animus that lies coiled at the core of this book startled this reader by its low key presence. I am in awe. As the Roman poet Horace said: "I have made a monument more lasting than bronze."
The novel is an extremely satisfying read. I believe I have just read an American classic.