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Sabbath Creek

A Novel by Judson Mitcham

Publication Year: 2004

In his highly anticipated second novel, Judson Mitcham, with plain but elegant language, creates an emotional impact rivaled only by his critically acclaimed debut novel, The Sweet Everlasting (Georgia). Sabbath Creek is the story of Lewis Pope, a fourteen-year-old boy thrust into an adult world of heartache and brokenness. When his beautiful but distant mother takes him on an aimless journey through south Georgia, the cerebral and sensitive Lewis is forced to confront latent fears--scars left from the emotional abuse of an alcoholic father and the lack of comfort from a preoccupied mother--that crowd his interior world.

At the heart of the journey, and the novel itself, is Truman Stroud, the quick-witted, cantankerous owner of the crumbling Sabbath Creek Motor Court, where Lewis and his mother are stranded by car trouble. His budding friendship with the ninety-three-year-old black man is his only reprieve from the mysteries that haunt him. Despite his prickly personality and the considerable burden of his own personal tragedies, Stroud becomes the boy's best hope for a father figure as he teaches Lewis the secrets of baseball and the secrets of life.

Sabbath Creek is more than a coming-of-age novel. And while Mitcham provides a nuanced look at the relationship between a white adolescent boy and a black old-timer, his second novel transcends the tired theme of race relations in the South. This compassionate, smart, powerful work of fiction touches the pulse of the human spirit. It travels from the ruined landscape of south Georgia and takes us all the way through the ruined landscape of a broken heart.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Part One

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1

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pp. 3-8

He slammed down the hood, then elbowed me out of the way, trailing an odor of old sweat and cigars and loud cologne soured in his clothes. He told my mother he would order the part, but it might not arrive for a week or even longer. She asked him if Sabbath Creek had a place where we could...

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2

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pp. 9-13

We put our bags in the room, then walked down the road, hoping to find someplace to eat. We passed two mobile homes, a house the color of a school bus, a long driveway that curved back into the woods. After maybe half a mile we came to a store with a portable sign that read...

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3

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pp. 14-15

"I guess so," I said, "maybe." I didn't know who Natalie Wood was or what she looked like, but I didn't want to admit that to Andy's sister. Not long afterwards, I saw the actress in an old movie, and I noticed the resemblance, but my mother's face was rounder, her nose sharper and a bit too long...

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4

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pp. 16-18

We found clean sheets on the beds, soap and towels in the bathroom, which had been scrubbed and smelled much better. The air conditioner gave out a low growl, but it did cool the room. There was a new deadbolt on the door. After we ate, there was nothing to do. I tried the TV, but the reception...

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5

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pp. 19-21

I discovered an old house about a mile from the motel. Strips of fake brick siding curled up from the gray wood in spots. The windows were all broken out, the tin roof rusted a dark wine shade. I looked in and saw trash scattered around and a straight chair lying on...

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6

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pp. 22-23

I woke up, and my mother was gone again. I walked all the way around the motel and saw that Stroud's lights were still on, though it was after three in the morning. All his curtains were open, and I could see him as clearly as though he were on stage...

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7

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pp. 24-27

Stroud told me he needed some help, and he took me into his apartment. All the curtains were pulled back, and the whole place was bright with sun, and it smelled fresh, like lemon-scented furniture polish. I helped him lift a heavy box onto a shelf...

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8

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pp. 28-31

The boy squirted a gob of spit on the cap, dropped it and stepped on it and ground it into the dirt. I ran at him hard, caught him in the stomach with the top of my head, locked my hands behind him and lifted, churned my legs and drove forward, and he slammed against the packed...

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9

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pp. 32-36

He was back in his bathroom on his knees, cleaning the tub. I could tell he'd already scrubbed the sink and toilet. Tm just about done here," he said. "Give me a minute." He rinsed the tub, washed out his brush, and looped its cord over the showerhead...

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10

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pp. 37-

Somebody was walking outside our room. The footsteps went down toward the end of the motel, then came back and traveled past our door. I got up and peeked out through the edge of the curtains. Headlights shined straight at the window...

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11

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pp. 38-47

My mother pulled me out the door, and we walked around to Stroud's back entrance. When he opened the door, she said, "Excuse me, but may we come in? Our room is a bit too noisy at the moment because of the people next door...

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12

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pp. 48-52

The dirt road snaked upwards in a series of switchbacks, straightened out into one long incline, then hooked downhill to the right. The trees were suddenly thicker, and somewhere below, not far off, a dog started barking, then several dogs, and then I saw them and heard them running...

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13

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pp. 53-60

I held out my arm and he squeezed the muscles, felt the bones, pinched and poked at my elbow, moved my wrist up and down, bent my fingers back and forth, and he made me do a set of stretches. Then finally he stood up and flipped me a ball, but it wasn't the one signed by Satchel...

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14

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pp. 61-

"I said, 'You might be anybody, Jack. Don't matter who you are, husband or not, we don't talk about folks staying here' That's what I said to him, but then I went on and told him no, there was nobody here at all. I asked him why was he calling me and wasting my...

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15

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pp. 62-66

Two days later, I ran back out to Eva's house, but this time nobody was there, not even the dogs. knocked on the door, then went down to the little boathouse beside the lake, but nobody was there either. I walked up onto the deck and knocked, then I tried the glass door and it slid open. I leaned inside...

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16

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pp. 67-68

"Let me show you," he said. "Stay right there." He stepped into the next room and returned with a framed photograph. "I keep this beside my bed, and I look at it every night before I go to sleep and every morning when I get up. Me and Ramona and the baby, little Truman Jr. He wasn't...

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17

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pp. 69-

Years ago, he said, churches used the creek for baptisms. There was a large clearing and a sandbar where both black and white churches gathered to baptize people who'd been saved, and that's how the creek got its name...

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18

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pp. 70-76

Stroud and I were throwing a ball back and forth when he asked me about my father. He wanted to know why we were running away. I told him we were not running away. He said we could call it whatever we wanted, but it looked like running away to him. He wanted me to tell...

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19

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pp. 77-78

"At least you ve had a real father," Eva said. She put her mouth against my neck and kissed me under the ear, and I wanted to say something, but I was afraid my voice would warble or choke up. She stopped kissing me, and she sat back and took...

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20

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pp. 79-81

We were sitting in Stroud's back room drinking iced tea. Miss Young was there again, and she and Stroud had been arguing but he wasn't putting on an act this time. He was just talking the way he usually did. I tried to change the subject—they'd been arguing about somebody...

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21

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pp. 82-86

"Pretty much the same as you, as I remember it. He'd take a left out of the motel and go down a ways, then take a right, out past the Stiles place, the house you been throwing your ball against. Same place where you done taped up that giant strike zone. One time, on his way back, he stopped...

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22

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pp. 87-89

Stroud said that when Satchel Paige visited the fox lady, she told him his arm was dead "because somebody had throwed against him and hexed him. Probably one of his women, she said. I don't know exactly what she did to take the spell off, but it didn't help him. That's when he got religion. He tried...

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23

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pp. 90-

I found a plastic grocery bag, and I gathered the pages and stuffed them in, then twisted the bag and tied it in a knot, and I went out and made my way to the trashpile, and I threw the bag onto the garbage and left it there...

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24

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pp. 91-93

We walked beside the pond, skipping stones and talking, and Eva wondered if the dogs ever thought about her, and if they did, what that was like for them. Did they remember her voice and her smell? Were they sad when they thought of her, and if so, did the...

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25

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pp. 94-95

He'd been slouching down in his chair, and now he pulled himself up and took a deep drag off his cigarette. "No," he said, "I buried them out at the cemetery." He looked straight at me, then pointed toward the trashpile on the other side of the motel's backyard. "You see...

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26

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pp. 96-98

I was standing next to one of the coolers at Furlow's, trying to decide what kind of ice-cream bar to buy, when I looked up and saw a man standing at the counter, holding out a paper bag. I couldn't see his face, but his head was mostly bald, and the little hair he had left was stubble...

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27

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pp. 99-

Eva told me she kept a secret notebook for recording her dreams. She dreamed often of flying—not in an airplane, but under her own power. She'd fly to Miami, where her real father lived with his other family. She'd fly through the rooms; she'd land on the dinner table and eat from the...

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28

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pp. 100-101

I called back, and the man told me they were pretty busy but he'd do what he could, and it was maybe two hours later when our car rolled up, followed by a wrecker. My mother was back by then. The man gave her a bill, and she studied it and asked him some questions, then reached...

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Part Two

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pp. 103-131

Nearly two months earlier, my mother showed up at the ball field, called me over and made me get in the car and wouldn't explain. She floored the accelerator, and the tires shot sand and rocks back against the fence, where the other boys stood watching. She turned south onto the highway...

Part Three

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1

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pp. 135-138

I walked around to Stroud's back door, opened it, and went inside. I looked in the refrigerator. There were three kinds of milk—regular milk, chocolate milk, and buttermilk. There was a pitcher of water and a carton of orange juice, a few sticks of butter, a package of bacon, a carton...

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2

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pp. 139-144

I woke up, and my mother was gone again. I went out to look for her, and I noticed there was a light in Stroud's apartment. I sneaked up close to a window, and looking through a crack in the curtains, I saw them sitting in the room with all the photos on the walls...

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3

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pp. 145-148

I stayed there all day, not knowing what I was going to do, until it was almost dark, and I got really thirsty again, and I walked upstream, following a path beside the creek. I'd gone maybe a mile when I came to a clearing and a small house, and there was Albert McGrath, sitting bent...

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4

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pp. 149-158

I spent the night under the bridge again, stayed there most of the next morning, and then I went back downstream, toward Eva's house, but I didn't know how to get there without going through town. Where the highway forked, the other road turned to the southwest, and so...

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5

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pp. 159-

I told my mother I was sorry for running away. I started to tell her why I'd done it, but she said very softly that she knew what my reason had been, that Eva had told her, and that she was sorry too, that she should never have said what she'd said, but that it didn't matter right...

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6

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pp. 160-161

Eva's mother had been called to the hospital late that night on a separate emergency, and she'd been there when they brought my father in. She'd recognized the name, and she'd called Eva, who told her I was in the boathouse, and then she'd called the motel and talked to my mother...

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7

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pp. 162-163

We drove home, and my mother followed the interstate as much as possible, but we still had to take some of the same back roads as before. We saw the spot where the old man's collie had died, and we zoomed past Pharaoh's House of Curiosity, still open for business, with its gallon...

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8

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pp. 164-167

"But Ramona," he said, "she wouldn't listen to nothing about Jesus, not ever again. Here was this good woman that never set out to hurt a soul, the sweetest, most Christian woman anywhere, and who'd never made a big deal out of it, never called attention to herself, just went about...

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9

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pp. 168-169

August ninth, my fourteenth birthday, we sat in the hot shade, and the preacher said a few words about a man he didn't know. Cars sped by on the highway. A driver leaned on his horn in front of the graveyard...


E-ISBN-13: 9780820340579
E-ISBN-10: 082034057X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820325774
Print-ISBN-10: 0820325775

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2004

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Poor families -- Fiction.
  • Boys -- Fiction.
  • Georgia -- Fiction.
  • Domestic fiction. -- lcsh.
  • Fathers -- Death -- Fiction.
  • Mothers and sons -- Fiction.
  • Bildungsromans. -- gsafd.
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