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Eating Mississippi Paperback – January 1, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Ely's quirky, humid novel (after Pulpwood: Stories) tracks two parallel journeys down the Pearl River through Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. Robert Day, a grieving, widowed translator, discovers a 19th-century French manuscript by a runaway slave named Octavius Maury in the attic of his Mississippi home. He determines to translate the manuscript while retracing Octavius's journey down the Pearl River. Day recruits three tennis buddies for the trip, and the men float down the river, fishing and hunting turtles for food. Throughout, Day reads aloud from Octavius's memoir, which details how he murdered his master (also his gay lover) in a jealous rage and then took off for Haiti. Ely's rendering of Octavius's account sounds incongruously contemporary, given its 1868 date, and the odd, ad hoc river trip feels especially arbitrary in the early going. Ely strives to up the atmospheric ante as the group approaches the Gulf of Mexico: memories of Day's wife continue to haunt him; the men become increasingly engrossed by Octavius's tale; and they mark their days by strange encounters with river wildlife. The river trip finally ends in tragedy when one of Day's companions goes mad. Ely's stilted exposition makes for awkward execution of what might otherwise be a fascinating conceit. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Translator Robert Day, still grieving over the death of his anthropologist wife, who was killed by poachers in Africa, discovers an old manuscript written in French. It is the diary of a slave named Octavius Maury, who killed the white master who was also his lover and escaped by boat to Haiti. Robert determines to retrace Octavius' journey down the Pearl River to the Gulf of Mexico and talks his tennis partners into making the trip with him. By day, Robert translates the diary as the men make their way down the river, foraging for food. At night over the campfire, he reads the desperate, violent diary passages of the escaped slave forced to kill and steal as he makes his way to freedom. Gradually, the men's own journey begins to take on dark overtones as class differences erupt, and a bookish, imaginative scholar sheds his civilized veneer, his clothes, and his desire to communicate. In this thought-provoking literary novel, Ely generates a good deal of suspense through Octavius' dramatic diary, which sometimes outshines his central story. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
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I like everything Ely has written. Although I am a big fan of Pitbull, I think Eating Mississippi may be his best book yet. As this unlikely group travels the river they are transformed and transform one another. As the story draws to a close, you will try hard to imagine how it will end. I won't spoil it for you, but let me just say: Scott Ely has written the perfect ending. It is a great story with a perfect, and I mean perfect, ending. Enjoy.