WILD CARD QUILT: Taking a Chance on Home
Seventeen years after leaving her childhood home in southern Georgia, Ray (Ecology of a Cracker Childhood) moved back to raise her nine-year-old son. The author delivers a lively account of her return to "a place that as a young woman I had gladly left behind." A naturalist and activist, Ray writes eloquently about the region's forests and waterways, places she works to protect from annihilation. She's also a community advocate and embraces rural traditions. In episodic vignettes, Ray tells of attending a syrup boiling, judging a pork cook-off and struggling to keep her son's small school open. Neighbors, cousins and assorted eccentrics populate the narrative, and Ray's affectionate portraits of them are memorable: her uncle Percy, who mows grass and attends church "with great joy"; her brother and his efforts to grow a giant tomato; and the photographer who lives in an old school bus. The eponymous quilt appears throughout the book, serving as a metaphor for Ray's attempt to reassemble her life. "Making a quilt is about being able to talk," she writes. "[T]rying to create a beautiful thing... mother and daughter, in spite of our differences." Though she doesn't delve into her relationship with her son and barely addresses the issue of race and contact with local black people, Ray celebrates the richness of the natural world and the comforts of family. (May 22)
Forecast:Ray's first book garnered Southern literary prizes and sold 50,000 copies. For her second book, the publisher plans a 20-city tour to such cities as Boston, Raleigh/Durham, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles, which might bring Ray national acclaim.