McNally Editions. Jun. 2022. 208p. ISBN 9781946022462. pap. $18. F
In this book originally published in 1994, lyrical linked stories unfold in Rattlebone Hollow, Kansas City’s historic Black quarter circa 1950, during the halting early days of school desegregation, centered around the coming of age of Irene “Reenie” Wilson, a young girl navigating the perplexing terrors and thrills of adolescence. Woven through Reenie’s impressions, readers glimpse others in this close-knit community: the longings of her wayward father on the fateful night the levee breaks; her long-suffering mother’s heartbroken musings; the wry calculations of a boarding house proprietress about her husband’s infidelities; the poignant redemption of that husband, since widowed. Veering recklessly through these lives is Reenie’s schoolteacher October Brown, a nearly mythic figure “no more careful than the sun is careful about coming up,” and the heroine of Clair’s subsequent novel October Suite.
VERDICT Individually compelling and collectively masterful, these resonant stories are told in cadenced prose of a ravishing, unforced eloquence. Writing this brilliant and evocative deserves a place on any shelf.
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