Cover

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Blurbs, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Foreword

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pp. vii-x

In a pivotal scene in Crossing the River, Fenton Johnson?s 1989 the River is full of them: the fierce heroine of the story, Martha certainly not to a man; her sensitive and selfless son, Miracle, who longs for a girl he can never really have and a life unbound izes that her dream has always been the place: the river, the lit-...

Prologue 1944

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She with Her Eyebrows Arched

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pp. 3-14

Martha Miracle was still Martha Bragg Pickett in 1944, three years out of high school and no more than three generations and several cousins removed from the Confederate general whose name she carried like a flag. He had advanced into Kentucky, General Bragg, had fought his bloody battle at Perryville, and retreated...

Part One: Done with Smoke and Mirrors. 1967

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1 Genealogy

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pp. 17-29

In May of 1967, Martha Pickett Miracle turned forty-five. That same month, her son Miracle graduated from New Hope’s Assumption High, only a year late—not bad, Martha figured, for the only heir to the Miracle name. Through high school, at Bernie’s insistence, Miracle had worked evenings and weekends at the Miracle Inn—not the easiest place to do homework...

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2 Picnic

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pp. 30-46

The next day, Martha threw her graduation picnic for Miracle, and the Great Society sent a blond Yankee to rebuild the Boatyard Bridge. Planning Miracle’s picnic was no easy job. It was important to find neutral ground, someplace where both the Picketts and the Miracles could appear without losing face. North of the bridge was out—too far from Pickett territory...

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3 Something Changed

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pp. 47-69

After graduation, Miracle started morning shifts at the Miracle Inn. Each day he rose at six to open the Inn for the men who bought beer for the two-hour drive to their jobs in chemical plants or distilleries in Louisville. All day he worked at the same chores that his father and grandfather had done before him and that (if Bernie had his way) Miracle’s sons and grandsons would do after he was dead...

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4 Fool for Love

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pp. 70-82

A week later Martha was churning fresh-boiled tomatoes through a food mill when Grandma Miracle dumped the mail on the kitchen table. “Looks like a wedding invitation,” Grandma said. “Now I wonder who’s getting married this late in the summer? I ain’t heard of no weddings except for that Skaggs girl, she’s a shotgun, she ain’t got the time to print up an invitation...

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5 In Between

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pp. 83-97

Summer passed into fall. The hills flamed with scarlet sumac and gold hickory and an occasional bright red sugar maple. In the morning air the walls of the valley pressed in on Miracle as he went to work. He felt as if he were walking in an open bowl of flame. The mist from the river rose to blend with the smoke left from the Fort Knox firing practices, coloring the western sky gray...

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6 Smoke and Mirrors

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pp. 98-111

The weather turned. The river bottoms froze and thawed. On a cold day you could walk the river bank on a crust of frost; then the sun would emerge from behind the gray sheet of the sky and you’d be standing in muck to your knees. Talbott came less and less often to New Hope because, Martha hoped, construction on the bridge had slowed...

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7 Promises, Promises

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pp. 112-118

Miracle knew something was up when on Christmas Day Bernie asked him to chop wood. Hard work on Christmas Day had to be a mortal sin, and Bernie could be relied upon to know all the sins in all their degrees. Besides, Bernie never asked anybody to do anything. Either you did it or Bernie did it himself, conveying without words the fact that he was doing your job and doing a better job of it to boot...

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8 Free at Last . . .

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pp. 119-128

She had wanted to be free; now she was free. Across four days Martha sat with the casket from nine a.m., when the funeral home opened, until the last visitor had left and there was only Grandma Miracle and herself and her son. She would like to have believed that she stayed from love, but her conscience allowed no part of that...

Part Two: Crossing the River. 1968

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9 At the Slate Bed

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pp. 131-143

Martha slept a great deal that winter. Hibernation, she called it to Rosie when she called at nine or ten to find Martha asleep; but each morning she woke less rested than the morning before. Through January she rose with Miracle to fix him breakfast and see him off to the Inn, but he never ate what she fixed and never spoke beyond a few curt words...

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10 City Lights

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pp. 144-152

As a child, Miracle went to the city exactly once a year, when Martha took him to have his eyes checked. That took a half hour, leaving Martha with a small boy and a full day of errands for herself and half the bridge club. On the third or fourth of these trips Martha discovered that she needn’t drag Miracle around. Left with an escalator or an elevator, he entertained himself for hours, riding up and down...

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11 Sweet Dreams

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pp. 153-166

The herons returned with the March rains. Martha heard their throaty cries at sunrise as she listened to Miracle, bumping around the kitchen before going to the Inn. She had not heard them since years ago, before she crossed the river, when she had swum under the Boatyard Bridge and startled the leggy blue-gray birds from the slate beds...

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12 Hunting Snipe

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pp. 167-175

The river dropped. Before the week was out Talbott was back on the new bridge. Standing at the Inn’s window, Miracle watched him pace the length of the bridge’s white concrete, shouting, arguing, pointing. Only the last smooth concrete and asphalt skin remained to be laid. A morning came when Miracle rose earlier than usual...

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13 Blood Talk

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pp. 176-180

She faced them all. When she had to, she faced them down. The next morning, Miracle rose with Martha. She ordered him back to bed. She would take the morning shift; he could come at noon. Miracle gave her a long look of disbelief, then he shrugged and returned to his room. After twenty-three years boldness did not come easy to Martha Pickett Miracle...

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14 Answered Prayers

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pp. 181-198

No one ever learned who arranged the dynamiting of the Boatyard Bridge. The Fort Knox post commander told the Louisville papers he’d contacted the local authorities, who’d been eager to cooperate. The reporter returned to his desk and filed his story. The next day the men who lined up at the Inn’s driveup window talked of nothing else...

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15 Crossing the River

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pp. 199-210

Miracle walked to the north end of New Hope before the new bridge cleared of people. After a while there came a steady stream of cars that during the dynamiting had been held back. He was afraid to hitchhike. The chances were too great that any car that stopped might belong to a friend of the family. He stepped from the road and hid in the woods...

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Afterword

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pp. 211-214

For serious writers and readers, our subjects choose us as often as the reverse. As the youngest of nine children, I was chosen by fate to take family as my subject, though I had to write Crossing the River to arrive at that subject: the families that we are chosen for, the families we choose, and the uneasy relationship between these. Crossing the River is a book by a young man...

Other Works in the Series

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pp. 215-218