FICTION

Solemn

St. Martin's. May 2016. 304p. ISBN 9781250091598. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250091581. F
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Bledsoe, MS, is a place somewhat lost in time; where "an outhouse is a staple and not a shame." It's in this rural setting that Buckhanon (Upstate; Conception) pulls back the curtain on the plight of impoverished African American families. When 13-year-old Solemn Redvine witnesses a man throw a baby down a community well, she senses that the infant's mother, a married woman who lives in their trailer park, is connected to the Redvine family, but she is unable to piece together the secret. In tracing's Solemn's troubled coming of age, Buckhanon mixes in the despair of addiction, disenfranchised African American children, and the indifference of police to solve a crime in the black community. Citizens of Bledsoe know the score, "We always got a white judge, all-white juries, a still-Jim Crow town, white prosecutor, white public defender, black accused, black victim.
VERDICT Buckhanon's outstanding writing fills this work with wonderfully evocative phrasing that will linger with readers. The numerous alternating viewpoints, however, muddies the clarity of her plot. Still, this work earns a place alongside James Hannaham's Delicious Foods as top-notch literary fiction sending a message about African American struggles in the 21st century. [See Prepub Alert, 11/23/15; library marketing.]

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