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3.36  ·  Rating details ·  530 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
From the acclaimed author of Mother of Pearl comes the story of Chalktown, an eerily quiet village in George County, Mississippi, where folks communicate with one another solely through chalkboards hanging from their front porches. Sixteen-year-old Hezekiah Sheehand lives down the road with his reckless sister, Arena, his mentally disabled younger brother, Yellababy, and t ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 4th 2002 by Washington Square Press (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
An absolute work of art. I love this book. The authors voice is amazing. A true crafter of sentences. She creatively personifies universal feelings and struggles through such a unique plot.
This book transported me to another time and place. I found myself thinking about it In between my time spent actively reading it. It gouged up feelings and settled scores within me that I was not even aware existed.
Jul 09, 2008 rated it liked it
This book contains an character pun: Yeller Baby - who had sufferend from severe infantile hepatatis, leaving him little more than a vegetable, and who screams a lot!

It also contains one of my favorite lines of all times with the malapropism used by his father to explain the child's condition: "Billy Reuben (sic) stole his brain!" And here you thought thieves only harvested kidneys?
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Haynes writes well and has a fine host of bizarre characters, plus a good Southern gothic setting with some powerful images. I wish this had been much tighter. There are too many characters, for one thing, and too much backstory for some. The disjointed timing doesn't help the book much. And I wish more authors would learn that bringing all characters together in the same place at the end of a story doesn't mean you have resolution or a true conclusion.
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Melinda Haynes is one of those rare authors who, when you see a book by her, you just grab it and buy it because you know it will be wonderful. The characters are evocative and the tale is wonderful. A must-read!
Sep 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
What to say? It is an interesting book and I did enjoy reading it, however, it is not one I would quickly recommend to anyone else. I paid $1 for it at the thrift store and it gave me a few entertaining hours, so that's saying something, right?

Let's see. The title is Chalktown, but that part of the novel does not come until well into the book. I see it as less a story about the people of Chalktown (who communicate only through messages written on chalkboards in front of each of their houses) an
Aug 06, 2010 rated it liked it
This was an interesting story. I gave it a 3 star rating more for the ability of the author to paint the picture of the scene and ambiance so vividly. The story was a little bit contrived, but the characters were interesting; perhaps not as well-developed as they could have been. The story was sometimes hard for me to follow as it jumps around to various characters and their experiences and I wasn't always sure I knew who the character was in relation to the others. I didn't find myself eager to ...more
Tessa Baker
Sep 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
What a weird book! Unfortunately, I'm not one to put a book down once I've started it so I read on and was thoroughly disappointed. The language was appalling, the speech very had to understand and the story line extremely hard to follow. Reading the blurb, you'd think the book would centre around 'chalktown' and the mysteries that underlie this strange community, (if you could call four households a community), which was certainly not the case!

And am I missing part of the book?? There didn't se
Feb 25, 2008 rated it did not like it
A strange, strange book. I kept reading because it was so weird and I had no clue what would happen next...but didn;t really enjoy it.
The story is basically about a kid who takes off with his disabled brother on his back and ends up in "Chalktown" where people communicate on chalkboards outside their house.
It was a little hard to follow at times and just plain weird at others.
Mar 24, 2014 rated it liked it
It was an interesting book that I enjoyed reading, however, it is not one I would quickly recommend to anyone else. I think I was impressed most by the author's ability to craft the perfect sentence and take me back in time to the rural south so well.
Oct 28, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: generalfiction
Oh those kooky, quirky southerners. Enough already; one Faulkner in the world will do.
May 22, 2011 rated it liked it
slow going at first, almost stopped reading it, starts to get better as you get into it. wouldn't read it again, would only recommend it if there was literally nothing else to read.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I originally purchased this book for no reason other than the author's name was the same as mine. When I first started reading I was not certain I would finish it, especially as Marion Caldwell was introduced and remembering that the author was from Mississippi. I decided to continue reading as I was now interested and wanted to find out how it ended. Ms Haynes described life in Mississippi in a credible way making her characters believable and realistic unlike other white authors from the South ...more
Martha Schwalbe
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was the perfect book to read while on vacation. I loved the lulling style of writing and found myself wandering back woods areas where I love to run.
The characters are an eclectic mix, each very individual and coping with life the way they can. The weakest character I felt was the mother. I wished I'd known more about her at the beginning of the story because I harbored some animosity toward Hez as he took Levi and left. Susan-Blair was being responsible, even if she wasn't involved with he
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: southern
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
I wanted to give this two stars, but I didn't like it at all. The characters were unlikable and so I didn't care about what happened to them. Everyone made foolish decisions (which is fine, because that's like real life) but few people ever seemed to really redeem themselves. They made many more poor choices than good ones.

It was long and boring. Sure, the language was fine and descriptive and all - it was well-written, I'll give you that. But even the most well-written sentences have to have h
Aug 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Chalktown, 1960's, a quiet village of few people who have taken to writing on chalkboards in front of their homes rather than speaking. This all came about after a tragedy that occurred in the village. Sixteen year old Hezekiah Sheehand is drawn to the village. He takes his little brother, Yellababy, with him to the village and ponders on staying. You will need to read why he is impelled to live with these people in Chalktown.
Ross Stocks
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
The culture depicted was reminiscent of that in Beasts of the Southern Wild, but more believable - except that a nearly total lack of drunkenness is as unlikely as its pervasiveness in Beasts.

The central plot, a mystery, was ultimately wrapped up a bit amateurishly and with no fanfare, but getting there was worth the read.

If you've lived in the deep south and interacted with any of its extremely impoverished backwoods folk, you will recognize some of these characters.
Mar 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction-southern
Has a cast of very odd and memorable characters, is well-written, and yet it left me indifferent. There are some awful ideas in this book and some lovely ones; it may be that the book causes an emotional shut-down in the reader, similar to that which occurs to the people of Chalktown. Fortunately for me I don't have to continue to exist in the book, I've finished reading it. The ending feels complete, like things come full circle, the author did a good job with it.
Feb 20, 2013 rated it liked it
I think this book was incredibly interesting and I appreciated the literary qualities it had. It's a great book to write a paper about for a literary journal. But the best books are books I *enjoy* as well as find interesting. I only truly enjoyed the last third of the book; the rest of it was simply something I got through because I'd committed to reading it. Five stars for being different and interesting, but I only actually liked it three stars worth.
Jun 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a strange southern tale. The imagery is amazing and the characters were incredibly interesting--albeit hard to keep track of at first. There is also a bit of a mystery that you have to stick with to figure out, but for the most part it is about an ecclectic group of people that deal with things the only way they know how...and there are some weird and wonderful ways.
Sep 03, 2007 rated it liked it
i found this book randomly at an everything's $1 book superstore closeout in some sad little dying strip mall in university park, pennsylvania. reminded me a bit of the sound and the fury, but easier to read. an oddly fascinating little piece of southern gothic surrealism. i think i made that term up, but that's the best way i can describe it.
Mar 03, 2011 rated it did not like it
The only thing interesting about this book was its premise. Sadly, I just got half-way through this and gave up on it. It really failed to hold my interest. The characters were thin and the plot never went anywhere I cared to follow. What a bust! :o(

Grade: DNF
Nov 21, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a well written and odd story full of odd characters. There was a deep desparity in many of the characters and their situations in life. I found the book to be ok but wouldn't pass it on to anyone. The oddness of the story would appeal to only a select few.
Sep 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
I liked the story woven by this author. I had the audio version and had a bit of trouble keeping the characters straight as she changed threads, but it was different and I will look for other books by her
Jan 09, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Picked it up spontaneously on the clearance table & glad I didn't pay full price. I like "Southern Gothic" type novels, but this one seemed to be trying too hard to fit into the genre, and the plot was too predictable. I almost didn't finish it, but I was traveling and had nothing better to do.
Jul 22, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: have-read
The premise was interesting - a town where people communicate only by writing on the chalkboards outside their houses. I've finished the book but I feel like I might've skipped some pages because it's taken me quite long to get through it. I don't know, maybe this is because I'm a weak reader.
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
I gave up. It has some pretty passages and I was hoping it would go somewhere -- I'm a sucker for depressing stories of struggle in the Deep South for some reason -- but it just languished like a worn out old dress on a laundry line.
Aug 10, 2010 rated it liked it
I liked the writing of this book. It was a little slow, but the charactor presentation held my attention. I would have given it four stars but I thought the ending was confusing. I needed more for the author to understand the meaning.
Aug 02, 2011 added it
Felt that this was a very slow starter and it never really got up to speed for me. Although it did come together at the end, for most of the book I couldn't see anything other than tenuous links between the characters. I wouldn't rush out and get it.
Jun 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Hezekiah takes his severely retarded, disabled brother, Yellababy, to Chalktown, a small community of misfits when their home situation seems intolerable. Yellababy's presence seems to initiate a healing process for these people in the aftermath of the unexplained killing of one of their number.
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An Amazing Story: Has anyone ever read such a bizarre tale? 1 4 Apr 18, 2013 01:46AM  
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Melinda Haynes (born 1955) is an American novelist. She grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. For much of her adult life she was a painter. In 1999, she wrote her first published novel, Mother of Pearl, while living in a mobile home in Grand Bay, Alabama. Melinda Haynes currently resides in Mobile, Alabama with her husband, Ray. Her writing is intimately connected with the Mississippi of the 1950s ...more
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