“Larry lay thinking of Silas, how time packs new years over the old ones but how those old years are still in there, like the earliest, tightest rings centering a tree, the most hidden, enclosed in darkness and shielded from weather. But then a saw screams in and the tree topples and the circles are stricken by the sun and the sap glistens and the stump is laid open for the world to see.”
Larry and Silas grew up as secret friends in the small town of Chabot Mississippi. Larry the son of a poor white family, Silas or “32” the son of a single black woman who lived on the property of Larry’s family. Their friendship is split apart by a racial slur and Silas goes on to be a popular, accomplished student who goes off to college. When the girl of Larry’s dreams doesn’t ever return from their first date, Larry is quickly labeled a murderer and is ostracized by the community-even with no proof he committed any crime. When a second girl disappears years later Larry is again under scrutiny and Silas has returned home as an officer of the law to investigate.
This novel is positively dripping in Southern literary style. Listen to the languid rhythms and cadences of the poor and rural south as you read. While it is a thriller the setting and the sad and dark tone force the reader to slow down as to take it all in. The characters of Larry and Silas are well-developed and flashbacks between the present and the past provide an intimate, visceral portrait into the mysteries of friendship, hope and redemption. I couldn’t put it down. 2010, 272 pages.