Marty Seaney's Reviews > The Lost Saints of Tennessee

The Lost Saints of Tennessee by Amy Franklin-Willis
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's review
Aug 11, 12

This is a Southern novel from its honeysuckle cake to its 33 year old mentally challenged character, tapping into icons like Boo Radley and Benjy Compson and Paula Deen with one fell swoop. Oh, and there's a stinky hound dog to boot.

A gothic plot arcs its way throughout lives of well-meaning, doomed types that find both predictable solace and sadness in Johnny Cash and Dolly, Lucky Strikes, and teen pregnancies. Despite all of this the novel works for the most part because you care about the characters and what happens to them in their quest to overcome their doomed existence and the trite trimmings that weigh them down. Zeke, Jackie, Lillian, Honora, and even Tucker feel like real people/dogs who suffer and survive both despite each other and because of each other.

Carter's story was touching, but his demise didn't quite live up to its suspended telling. Benjy's final wailing and John Singers's demise will never be matched. Somehow the Southern novel needs to rise and move beyond this type of gothic rerun.

We really don't need to politely sit through a sweltering summer's day as Rosa Coldfield/ Lillian demand we listen to a story, her version, the really sad one to counter either what we are going to hear or what we have heard about the tragic events that doomed them all. The re-telling does not add any new layers of meaning or understanding, nor does it imbue the story with a latticed structure that speaks to the deep history of its characters and the land that holds them captive. It actually just distracts one from the energy of the main narrator, Zeke.
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