Small Victories

Sallie Bingham, Author Zoland Books $20.95 (298p) ISBN 978-0-944072-20-2
Southern gothic touches lace this dark, portentous story of family lies revealed and grievances redressed. In Passion & Prejudice , Bingham described the bitter conflicts that beset several generations of her own family, which owned the Louisville Courier-Journal . She sets this, her second novel, in a small North Carolina town circa 1958. Louise, the elder of two middle-aged sisters, quietly cares for childlike Shelby, who suffers unpredictable seizures and emotional storms. Baffled and embarrassed by Louise's refusal to put Shelby in an institution, their beloved cousin Big Tom, a state senator, forces her hand. While casting about for ways to free Shelby, Louise tries mightily to strip emotional blinders from the eyes of Big Tom's tormented son, a Harvard sophomore heading for a nervous breakdown. Bingham's skills are intermittent: she is capable of communicating bone-deep truths, but spoils them through florid overwriting. Louise's letters to Young Tom tell of too many hushed-up family tragedies, teasing out a multigenerational skein of insanity. Throughout, Bingham harps on repellent sights and smells, evoking--then exaggerating--palpable decay beneath seemingly smooth surface appearances. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/04/1992
Release date: 05/01/1992
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