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The View from Delphi Hardcover – June 1, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prejudice threatens to tear apart a small Mississippi town during the 1950s in Odell's first novel, a well-told but familiar and slow-moving story about a pair of families who find their lives altered by the bigotry of a small-minded sheriff. Hazel Ishee Graham is a backwoods farm girl who uses her beauty to attract Floyd Graham, the ambitious man who becomes her husband and the most successful car salesman in tiny Delphi. On the other side of town, preacher Levi Snow and his daughter, Vida, are being harassed by the cartoonishly piggish sheriff, Billy Dean Brister. The sheriff, who uses the influence of the local senator who got him elected to keep the populace under his thumb, rapes Vida and terrorizes the family after her child is sent away. Meanwhile, one of Hazel's two sons is killed in an accident, and Hazel indulges her proclivities for fast driving and strong spirits, crashing into a life-size nativity scene. This prompts Floyd to hire Vida as a maid to keep Hazel under control. In a series of parallel subplots, both Floyd and Billy Dean have affairs with the senator's comely daughter, Delia. But the pace crawls when Odell lingers over mundane scenes of daily life in Delphi, and flabby prose mutes the novel's dramatic climax. Odell clearly knows his setting and shows obvious compassion for his characters, but the combination of extraneous scenes, too many Southern stereotypes in the character roster and an overly familiar plot keeps his debut ploddingly earthbound.
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From Booklist

The lowlands of Delphi, Mississippi--a small town in the pre-civil rights era-- hold the cotton fields of the wealthy and the shanties of the black sharecroppers who serve them, in. The homes of the town's white citizenry sit on higher ground, reflecting the rigid racial and social stratification. Underlying the social stratification are layers of emotional and relational ties that bring together two women struggling to recover from the loss of their sons. Hazel Graham, who came to Delphi from the Appalachians with her ambitious husband, Floyd, is gradually losing herself to alcoholism and medical sedation. Hazel's maid, Vida, a lifelong resident and daughter of a local minister who has fallen from the favor of the powerful senator, is simmering with vengeance and determined to find her lost son. With the commonality of their loss and the sense of invisibility within the constraints of the small town, the two women move from loathing to mutual reliance and finally friendship on the eve of social changes seeping into the South. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 330 pages
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage Publishing; First Edition edition (June 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931561680
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931561686
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #820,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't disagree more with the Publishers Weekly review. I found Odell's story of race, family and mid-century southern life engaging, fast-paced and moving. This is a remarkably literate first novel with an extraordinary sense of place, time and character. Dark humor permeates the story, and yet Odell never concedes to condescention or cynicism. His characters are archetypal without ever becoming stereotypical. Coming at a time when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Brown v Board of Ed, and when the federal government has agreed to re-open the murder case of Emmett Till, this novel has an immediacy and relevance to the present. If you're looking for a refreshing change from the Hollywood-Action-Movie-Styled blood-and-violence potboilers that fill bookstore stacks this time of year, this is the novel to read.
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Format: Paperback
I am an historian of the South, and don't often read novels. But when I sat down with Jonathan Odell's story about Civil Rights Era Mississippi, I was transported back to a very real, rather than fictional, period of our past. In short, Odell writes the kind of fiction that makes history come alive. He is a master of dialogue, revealing a keen understanding of human character in its various styles of expression. Can a white southern male write a believable story about white and black women communicating across the divide of racial segregation and violence in the Jim Crow South? Odell does just that, with an achingly sensitive portrayal of Johnny, the white son of Hazel, to help readers make the journey with them. Hard to believe this is Odell's first novel!
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Format: Hardcover
A member of my book club chose this book and I took it with me on vacation. I was thinking I was going to "struggle" through it since it wasn't the typical quick-light vacation read!


I couldn't put this book down. Every night, while cruising the Mediterranean I couldn't wait to read this book!! It is a true reflection of the attitudes of the south, and conveys the subtle dynamics between people. I was transported from my cruise to the south!!

This book is one of our all-time favorites...we have also loved reading Barbara Kingsolver- The Poisinwood Bible, The Red Tent, The Lovely Bones, Anna Karinana, White Oleander, Memoirs of a Geisha, etc.

The View From Delphi stands up to all of these in a mesmorizing and memorable manner! ENJOY!!!
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Format: Hardcover
After running away from her poverty-stricken, hardscrabble family life in the rugged Appalachia mountains, Hazel Ishee finds employment in a drug store, until she meets her future husband, a young man from a similar background, with dreams of his own. The industrious Floyd sells machinery all over the Mississippi Delta, eventually realizing his aspirations, when he moves his family into the upper-class neighborhood he covets, anxious to belong in that society. Meanwhile, Hazel struggles with overwhelming feeling of inadequacy that leaches the enjoyment from her comfortable days. Even their two sons cannot relieve Hazel`s downward spiral, which is only alleviated by the alcohol she drinks excessively. The drinking brings a whole new set of problems for a woman unprepared to deal with a successful marriage and comfortable lifestyle.
Vida's disillusionment is of another kind. A young girl from a prominent black Delta family, Vida gives birth at fifteen to the child of a white man, tormented by her sense of disgrace she brings to her family. Vida's father is the local preacher, full of fine words, until faced with the reality of his daughter's illegitimate child. When the biological father of Vida's baby is appointed sheriff he wants the child out of sight, afraid of the damage to his reputation and his political aspirations. Vida's family's fortunes fail and she is haunted by the loss of her baby. She and her brother are forced to work the land they once lived on.
The years pass, and Vida is hired as a maid to the incompetent Hazel, who has also lost a son; Vida's primary duty is giving Hazel the medication that sends her spoiled charge spinning into oblivion every morning, yet the two women's mutual need is the closest thing either has to friendship.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Set in Mississippi at the height of Jim Crow, The View from Delphi is one of those novels you will either love or hate. I purchased this book because I was on a high after finishing Odell's second book, The Healing. Even though The View from Delphi was a good story, I felt like it was missing something. I don't want this to be a comparison review between The View from Delphi and The Healing because in The Healing you can see how Odell has grown as a writer. After reading both, I can say again and again Jonathan Odell is definitely a master storyteller.

Hazel Graham and Vida Snow were an unlikely pair. Hazel Graham was white and rich while Vida Snow was black and also Hazel Graham's maid. They both had a common thread that eventually tied their hearts together, the loss of a son.

Hazel Ishee was born dirt poor and sort of an ugly duckling but she refused to become rooted in that life. Hazel developed a plan that launched her right into "town" and into the arms of a soldier, Floyd Graham. Floyd was an ambitious salesman whose lived by "positive thinking." Hazel and Floyd made a life for themselves in Delphi located in the Mississippi Delta.

Vida Snow was the only daughter of Levi Snow the favored black preacher of Delphi. Levi treated Vida like a princess calling her his "Snowflake Baby" and dressing her in all white. Vida fell from her pedestal when she was raped by a local white man, Billy Dean Brister. Regardless of the trauma that brought him to her Vida loved her son Nate. Billy Dean was on track to become the next Sheriff of Delphi and he was not about to allow anyone to stop it. He was especially not going to allow Vida and "their" son too.

Vida's every move was calculated towards getting revenge on Billy Dean.
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