Entering Ephesus

Daphne Athas, Author
Daphne Athas, Author Permanent Press (NY) $24.95 (440p) ISBN 978-0-933256-73-6
Reviewed on: 12/01/1990
Release date: 12/01/1990
First published in 1971 to good notices, (it made Time 's 10 Best List and won the Walter Raleigh Fiction Award), this novel is ill-served by its title, which does nothing to entice the reader into the world of Athas's extraordinary characters. The Bishop family has been forced by the Depression to move from relative grandeur in the North to frank squalor in the Southern town of Ephesus (which bears strong resemblance to Chapel Hill, N.C., where Athas lives and teaches). The three girls are a Little Women -ish assortment, from Irene, the oldest, a lusterless Meg; to Urie, the undeniable Jo whose story this mostly is; to the youngest, Loco Poco/Amy, whose zaniness veers on an ultimately perilous course. Their father, P.Q. (which might stand for ``Peculiar''), is a dreamer whose failure at various schemes has landed them in a shack in ``Niggertown,'' which is impossible to keep warm and clean. While Mrs. Bishop clings to her aristocratic origins, the girls take on the world. This is a big book in every sense of the word, glorious, fascinating and holding up perfectly in the 20 years since its first publication. Written in nearly mesmerizing language, it's an unforgettable story that soaks into its reader the way red dirt in this ``drab, beaten Southern town'' permeates the cracks in a board shanty. (Jan.)
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