Picks and Pans Review: Off for the Sweet Hereafter

updated 07/28/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/28/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by T.R. Pearson

For those who enjoyed this author's A Short History of a Small Place last year, Pearson returns, with new characters, to Neely, N.C. In this eventful chaos, it's impossible to tell the main plot from the digressions. A roof gutter is repaired, and, while that may not seem like much in most places, it turns out to be a big happening in Neely. It leads indirectly to the discovery that the bald Jeeter (the baldness differentiates her from her sister, the fat Jeeter) is dead. There is an impressive funeral, a stickup man stages a robbery, Jane Elizabeth Firesheets seduces Benton Lynch, and violence breaks out in a cemetery. Pearson's sentences wander sweetly all over, like honeysuckle in a hedgerow. The country wit is in full evidence: "Harricanes was the sort of place you could not know you were in until you were out of it." The descriptive touches are grand—Jane Elizabeth Firesheets "had piled her hair up on top of her head where she had twisted it and teased it and just generally annoyed and provoked it into a massy lump." The rhythm of the prose is hypnotic, and in this context even names of automobiles—Nova, Galaxy, Impala—become hilarious. Pearsons, who lives in a place called Fuquay-Varina, N.C, will soon be run out of town on a rail if his real neighbors are anything like the characters in this book. (Linden Press, $16.95)

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