Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Review: The Lost Saints of Tennessee

This was one of those books I pulled off the "to be shelved" shelves in the library—the first place I always check at the library. Living in Tennessee, I was attracted by the title. Books about Southerners can go either way: they can be unbelievably beautiful, or unbelievably stereotypical and tacky.

The Lost Saints of Tennessee definitely is not on the tacky end of the scale. Author Amy Franklin-Willis knows tiny towns in Tennessee, but rather than make her characters fat, dumb, and full of snappy comebacks—which happens all too often in books about the south (as opposed to Southern Lit), she made them real.

Zeke Cooper is a sad middle-aged man who had never recovered from his twin brother's death. His ex-wife recently remarried, his daughters are drifting away from him, he is utterly estranged from his mother, and he feels like an utter failure. He just can't figure out why he should go on living. But his suicide attempt is thwarted, and he tries a different angle.

After his failed suicide, Zeke drives from Tennessee to his cousin's house in Virginia, where he spent a happy semester while he was in college. It is there that Zeke finds healing, reconciliation, and redemption.

Much of the story takes place in flashbacks to Zeke's high school years, through both his mother's eyes and through Zeke's point of view. I loved the whole story of Zeke and his brother Carter and how different the stories are from the two points of view.

This is the author's first novel, and I look forward to what she has next.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Thanks so much for the review of Lost Saints of Tennessee. It is lovely to hear that an actual Tennessean found the book authentic and moving.

I, too, am frustrated by books that portray Southerners in extreme stereotypes. We have our quirks, I'll allow, but we are a complicated bunch deserving of stories that portray the diversity of Southern voices.

Happy reading!
Amy Franklin-Willis