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A Novel

By Melinda Haynes

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ISBN 10: 078686656X
336 pages

Melinda Hayne’s first novel of immense and staggering power (Pat Conroy, author of Beach Music) was an unexpected sensation, chosen for Oprah’s book club and selling more than half a million copies in hardcover. Now in the same devastatingly beautiful language that has won her critical and popular acclaim, Melinda Haynes returns to the country she knows so well — the backwoods South of the 1960s — to tell the story of a mysterious town and its inhabitants, each with their own afflictions and joys, each with their own secrets.

In sparsely populated George County, Mississippi, along a quiet dirt road lined by sharecropper houses, lies Chalktown — a small village of folks who communicate mostly through the chalkboards hanging from their front porches. Down the road lives the Sheehand family: 16-year-old Hezekiah, his reckless sister Arena, his mentally disabled younger brother Yellababy, and their disaffected and often cruel mother, Susan Blair, whose husband has abandoned both the house and the family. One day, with Yellababy strapped to his back, Hez sets out for Chalktown, determined to plumb its mysteries, or maybe just to get away from his shabby home’s oppressive atmosphere. And, on that same spring day, the family he’s left behind will confront a tragedy that at once erases Hez’s bitter past and paves the way for a hopeful future. Armed with a gothic and spiritual sensibility reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor, Melinda Haynes weaves her character’s; lives and stories into an unforgettable tapestry of sorrow and salvation that confirms her place as one of our country’s most exciting and consistently brilliant new writers.


“Like Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner, from the lives of ordinary people Haynes crafts the extraordinary.” —Baltimore Sun

“With a gift for vivid prose and spot-on dialect, Melinda Haynes brilliantly weaves a tale of tragedy and salvation that will keep readers guessing to the very last line.” —Time Out New York

“Second-novelist Haynes (Mother of Pearl, 1999) prunes back her lush plotting, while maintaining both an extraordinary style and a firm grounding in her native South of the 1960s, to produce a satisfying tale of violence and redemption . . . All the trappings of southern gothic — death, race, religion, and violence among country folk — coupled with big ideas about the place of God in these proceedings . . . Haynes lyrical prose will captivate readers . . .” —Kirkus Reviews

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Buy the Book

A Novel