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dress." Moments like this that are simultaneously deUcate and terrifying permeate the novel and offset the potential for maudlin indulgence. Foster care as viewed throughAstrid's eyes reveals the combination of the fantastic and the modem characteristic of an American chUd's Ufe at the end of the twentieth century. Like a Grimms' tale, White Oleander cuts to the quick, even as it captivates. (TH) The Long Home by William Gay MacMurray & Beck, 1999, 257 pp., $24.95 The Long Home, William Gay's first novel, is strongly rooted in the hüls and hollows of east Tennessee. Set in 1944 (with frequent flashbacks to the early 1930s, when a mysterious figure named Douglas Hardin appeared in Mormon Springs and moved in on the Hovington family, taking over their land and terrorizing them and their neighbors), the novel tells the story of a young carpenter named Nathan Winer, who is attempting to come to terms with the disappearance some years earUer of his father. Winer is befriended by William Tell Oliver, an elderly mountaineer . Oliver knows what really happened to Winer's father but for reasons of his own is reluctant to divulge the truth. When Winer goes to work for Hardin and falls in love with Amber Rose Hovington, Oliver must face the fact that he has become at least a tacit accomplice of Hardin 's, helping him perpetuate evil through his own passivity. Gay writes beautifully about the Tennessee countryside, and one of the many joys to be had from reading this novel is its texture of place and period. This often overlooked comer of America is evoked in vivid detail, as when Gay tells us of "dark bulks rising out of the mouths of hoUows, trees growing through their outraged roofs. Old stone flues standing blackened and solitary Uke sentries frozen at their posts waiting for a relief that did not come and did not come." StylisticaUy, Gay owes a debt to Cormac McCarthy, but his own prose is more direct and less mannered . Dallas Hardin is one of the more convincing vülains in recent fiction, and both Nathan Winer and Amber Rose are memorable characters as well. Many of the minor characters become vivid after only two or three strokes: the Mexican bouncer, Jiminiz; the local sheriff, Bellwether; Winer's friend Buttcut Chessor; and the novel's main comic presence, the lugubrious Motormouth Hodges. The real gem of the book, however, is William TeU Oliver. At times OUver seems puzzled as to why he has lived so long in the shadow of such evil without lifting a hand to thwart it. As he tells Bellwether, Hardin has just been "usin' up air other folks could put to good use." Oliver's epic struggle is not so much against Dallas Hardin as it is against some element of reticence in himself that he never fully seems to comprehend . Gay is a deft craftsman who, if this novel is any indication, has a rich career ahead of him. He writes with a good ear, a fine eye and an unusually large heart. The Long Home is a debut that should be savored. (SY) 214 · The Missouri Review ...


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