The Unicorn Woman

Beacon. Aug. 2024. 224p. ISBN 9780807030035. $26.95. F
In 1950s Jim Crow South, Black WWII vet Buddy Ray Guy travels between Lexington, KY, and Memphis, TN, staying in establishments that serve Black patrons or sleeping in his car when no accommodations can be found. He avoids the Deep South, which is an unwelcoming place for a Black man, even though he fought for his country. But any farther north just doesn’t feel like home. In between working as a tractor repairman, Buddy travels and visits sideshow carnivals. Here he lays eyes upon the mythical and elusive Unicorn Woman, a woman he cannot touch but aches to be with. He had no trouble finding real women in Europe during the war, and in Memphis and Lexington as well, but never seems to connect with them. Despite a promising timeframe and glimpses of what could have been fascinating characters, this novel follows only Buddy, who is just a shadow, staying outside of all aspects of life—family, love, religion. In each town, he searches sideshows for the Unicorn Woman with an obsession that lacks passion.
VERDICT Jones (The Birdcatcher) rambles somewhat aimlessly, like Buddy, offering a character that should have been more compelling and a story that plods along.
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