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Mattaponi Queen: Stories Paperback – May 25, 2010
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Boggs’ debut collection of interwoven stories is simultaneously sharp-edged and pastoral, downcast and humorous. Her tales are set on the Mattaponi Indian Reservation in rural downstate Virginia, an unfamiliar landscape that springs to life as each story unfolds, revealing another layer in time. A young woman, raised by her father after her mother deserted them, drops out of art school, $30,000 in debt. Now pregnant, she awaits her husband, who returns from a short stint in Iraq as an amputee. In another story, her father’s longtime friend, dying of liver disease, tries to reconnect with his kids, now living off the rez with their mom. The title story features the long-suffering nurse of a “mean and stubborn” elderly woman, gradually making payments on an old houseboat, the Mattaponi Queen. He hates to part with this wedding present he gave his second wife, who later ran off with her yoga instructor. The reader feels privy to each conversation, so pitch-perfect is Boggs’ feel for the godforsaken place her characters inhabit. --Deborah Donovan
“Strongly imagined, finely controlled and well-crafted. These stories are good because they are true, true in that way that only good fiction can be.” ―Percival Everett, Bakeless Fiction Judge
“Belle Boggs infuses these stories of sometimes hardscrabble, dreams-deferred lives with a finely crafted, absolutely confident elegance. Boggs is a writer who knows how deep and how hard we can love and live. Her characters are too real to ever forget.” ―Marita Golden, author of After
“Belle Boggs is an immensely gifted writer, and this is a remarkable debut collection-each nuance of emotion, of insight, of dialogue and character, is pitch-perfect and surprisingly resonant.” ―Mary Yukari Waters, author of The Favorites
“The Mattaponi River is the confluence of three rivers and is also the stunning metaphor for a place where three races have lived inextricable histories for generations. Indeed, the stories in Mattaponi Queen gather like converging waters until the narrative world is coursing and undeniable. A few lives leak away from the Mattaponi, others never leave its banks, but character and place are one in this world so unapologetically evoked by Belle Boggs' beautiful, direct prose, and tension is not so much a few events as it is a constancy that is occasionally emerged from, the water moccasin head above the
water . . . and then not . . .” ―Michelle Latiolais, author of Even Now and A Proper Knowledge
“Mattaponi Queen was one of the best things I've read all year. I looked forward each night to a new story, and by the end, felt as if I'd been sitting in a car or on a porch with a cousin or neighbor, listening to how things went wrong, or how they could have gone right, or how they might still look up. The setting was so perfectly rendered that I saw the river, the dirt roads, the woods, and most of all, the way each character moved in that landscape. The interwoven stories remind me of Annie Proulx crossed with Ernest Gaines--the dry humor, the understatement, and the wonderful dialogue that sounds as if I'm hearing it while sitting on a folding chair in a yard.” ―Susan Straight, author of A Million Nightingales