Picks and Pans Review: Chalktown

updated 05/21/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/21/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Melinda Haynes

It's back to the backwoods for Oprah's Book Club author Haynes (Mother of Pearl), whose second novel is full of '50s Mississippi stereotypes. None-too-bright 16-year-old Hezekiah Sheehand, toting his disabled 5-year-old brother Yellababy on his back, plays hooky from school and sets off for the community of the title, whose eccentric residents have taken to communicating by writing on chalkboards on their porches since the unsolved murder of a woman there six years earlier. The crime is more interesting than the dysfunctional Sheehands; it seems Haynes has read too much of the southern gothic writing of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor. (Theia, $23.95)

Bottom Line: Tired try at Mississippi blues

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