American Pop

Morrow. Feb. 2019. 400p. ISBN 9780062697745. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062697769. F
"Southerners are only as good as their ability to tell a story," declares this novel's unnamed third-person narrator. Judging by the effervescent and poignant multigenerational family drama as recounted here, Mississippi-born Wright is one excellent Southerner. As in his award-winning debut novel, Play Pretty Blues, the author uses an unorthodox nonlinear narrative style to trace the rise and fall of the Forsters and their soft drink empire, the Panola Cola Company. Founder Houghton Forster, the son of Scottish immigrants, and his Southern aristocratic wife, Annabel, raise their children with the expectation that they, too, will make their mark upon the world. However, eldest son Montgomery is haunted by his lost love, Nicholas is killed during the Great War, fraternal twins Ramsey and Lance show little interest in their inheritance, and gentle Harold is slowed by a mental disability. Ultimately, Houghton's decision to leave Panola Cola to spoiled grandson Nicholas leads to ruin.
VERDICT Wealthy white families in decline are a staple of Southern fiction, but Wright spins this familiar tale with a fresh exuberance and flair that will engage fans of Nancy Lemann and James Wilcox despite one-too-many narrative digressions and some skimpy characterization. [See Prepub Alert, 7/31/18.]
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