This novel captured my imagination and attention from the first words. Set in the American South after the great Mississippi Flood of 1927 the story is part southern gothic, part epic odyssey, part clash of worlds. At the same time it is a tender story about the endurance of the human heart and the lengths it can go to survive. Bill Cheng explores a world deeply rooted in the past that is crashing headlong into the future and resisting with all its might despite the people caught in between.
The story begins with a flood that washes away people’s homes and lives. The poor and down trodden are left to fend for themselves and the imagery of Hurricane Katrina almost 90 years later echoes through your mind. A young boy will first lose his home then his friends and finally his family. First in the flood, then in the aftermath. And so a journey begins. An odyssey of sorts through flood and fire, decay and renewal, past and present. A boy becomes a man and must choose whether or not to stick with the past or run into the future.
The comparisons to Cormac McCarthy abound but I think they’re off the mark. McCarthy’s writing is often sparse and direct while Cheng’s is more poetic and profound. His style and the structure of the story is more reminiscent of Column McCann but Cheng’s own distinct voice shines through. Cheng brings vividly to life a physical world of decay and renewal, hope and despair and echoes these sentiments through his characters. Hauntingly sad this is an epic journey that tests and strains the limits of human endurance both physically and of the heart.
Classification: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publish Date: 9-May-2013
Country of Publication: United Kingdom