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Witches on the Road Tonight Paperback – Bargain Price, January 10, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Holman (The Dress Lodger) investigates a dynasty of fear, mysticism, guilt, and love, beginning in Depression-era Appalachia through to contemporary Manhattan, in her uneven but heartbreaking latest. In 1940, Eddie Alley is a shy boy living in rural Virginia with his mother, Cora, who is dogged by rumors of witchcraft. A visit from a writer and photographer from the WPA opens Eddie's eyes to the possibilities outside his tiny town, starting him on the path to becoming Captain Casket, a cartoonish TV horror movie presenter. But beneath Captain Casket's makeup and kitsch lurk secrets and tortures waiting to burst out. Holman dodges back and forth over a 70-year period, checking in on Eddie, Cora, Eddie's daughter Wallis, and homeless teenager Jasper, whom Eddie takes in and acts as a reluctant lynchpin for a tortuous familial would-be love triangle. Though the story flags in the middle section, it does recover in time to map out the devastating consequences of sin and circumstance that were forged in the hills of Appalachia and tumbled down through the generations. (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In the time it took to dash from a cornfield playground, Eddie Alley�s world turned upside down. A car, rare in the mountain hollows of 1940s Virginia, clipped Eddie as he ran from his taunting friends. Its driver, a slick New York writer accompanied by his glamorous girlfriend, shepherds Eddie to his mountain cabin to await his mother�s return. It would have been better for all concerned, though, if Eddie had been left by the side of the road, because his mother is known for her sorcery. Too late, the writer falls under her spell, but not before mesmerizing Eddie with the novelty of his hand-cranked movie projector and rare footage of a silent horror movie. Thirty years later, as a two-bit celebrity host of a campy, late-night TV creep show, Eddie is forced to reconcile the dark events of his past when a young boy comes into his care. Vibrantly atmospheric, Holman�s stealthily ambiguous novel of suspense glitters with the force of sins and indiscretions unbounded by time. --Carol Haggas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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From this point on, author Holman does some shifting of her own, alternating times, places, and perspectives among her three principal characters. Tucker stays longer in the mountains than anticipated, and Eddie grows up to become a cult figure, "Captain Casket" on a nightly TV horror show. His daughter, Wallis, seems to have inherited her grandmother's penchant for the mystical, and she experiments with her powers on Jasper, the homeless teen taken in by her family.
Witches is written in thoughtful, sometimes lyrical prose, and the passages set in the Appalachians are particularly evocative and eerie. While it does have its otherworldly elements, the overriding theme deals with human fears and desires. As Eddie describes them, "There is the fear of failure and nuclear annihilation and snakes, of getting up in the morning, and then, of course, there is the fear of the dark, which is, as they all are, the fear of Death, which we dare not examine too closely while in life, lest it ruin all the more pleasurable fears of living and loving."
What undermines this tale is the frequent confusion wrought by the narrative, hopping back and forth from the 1940's to the 80's to the present, and told in different voices. I found myself rereading entire chapters to discern what was actually happening. But all is clarified in the closing pages, and Witches casts a lingering spell.
It is a rare writer who can pull us effortlessly across time and character and geography with the conjuring power that Holman demonstrates here. From a dogtrot cabin in Appalachia on the eve of the second world war to 1980s suburbs still scented with a rural perfume to post-Apocalyptic corners of contemporary New York, there is no false note. This is a dark family epic in which fear must be mastered and never quite can be.
Holman is an enchantress, whose knack for detail and narrative power will transport you. Witches on the Road Tonight is disturbing and enthralling and worth the deep and diligent reading that its careful conjuring on the page invites.
"Witches" is a fun book. With roots in old Virginia's mountain culture, including a gutsy, individuated sort of witching, and with tendrils threading through our cappuccino-tinged urban landscape and into today's, media-mediated mass witchery, this tale describes an orbit of no small ambition. For myself, tracing that orbit with the author encourages communication between parts of the brain that may not normally meet during waking states. In sexual energy Ms. Holman finds one of the connecting transports; passages of this novel are deeply sexy -- always in context, though. Other transports explored include the pain of alienation, the embers of ambition, and the unfolding nightscapes of our imaginations. In "Witches" there's nothing artificial about the characters who are experiencing these energies. I find them the strongest, most natural she has created. And yet, despite the marked individuality of these characters, through some alchemy of prose, she also is able to make us feel that it is _our_ lives she writes about.
In these uncertain days, purveyors of imaginative prose can be more important than ever in helping us find our bearings amid the white noise of 24/7 information. Authors who wish to "step up to the plate" have a challenge probably as great (or greater) than Goethe did with Wilhelm Meister or Joyce did with Ulysses. Among current authors who aspire to take that step up, even while rightly refusing to be defined by anyone else's "plate," Ms. Holman shows herself in this novel to be one of the biggest risk takers. She successfully delineates in prose nuances of experience that have eluded earlier writers I have read. She challenges each of us to read and write as though sanity itself depended on it. And yet, being a seasoned storyteller, she tells a tale here that manages to be unpretentious and vastly entertaining, despite its deep seriousness. Highly recommended.