No Other Tale to Tell

Richard Perry, Author William Morrow & Company $25 (315p) ISBN 978-0-688-11595-1
Set in 1966 in the small city of Kingston, N.Y., Perry's somber tale frames the history of the burg's black community around the experiences of Carla March, a single mother in her early 40s who's haunted by a tragic incident from the past. As the story opens, Carla begins an affair with Miles Jackson, who's passing through town while trying to recover from a bad divorce. When the lovers quarrel and Carla drives Miles off, the narrative shifts into an extended flashback about Carla's dark relationship with her adopted brother Max, a white foundling who becomes a popular preacher and plays a mysterious role in a fire that burns the family's house to the ground. Perry ( Montgomery's Children ) has many strengths: a talent for deeply rendered and authentic characterization, a fine feel for black life in a small city and a clearly heartfelt love of storytelling. He's at his best when exploring Carla's reluctance to let go of her past and when choreographing the timeless lover's tango between Miles and Carla. Less successful is his use of symbols from dreams and myths to portray the collective psyche of the community, a stylistic trait that recalls Toni Morrison to the point of being derivative. While the narrative flow is sometimes disjointed, the disturbing story of Carla March presents a memorable protagonist and effectively documents the experiences of blacks in a rarely observed corner of America. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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