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IN A TEMPLE OF TREES

Suzanne Hudson, Author
Suzanne Hudson, Author . MacAdam/Cage $23 (355p) ISBN 978-1-931561-41-9
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Though Hudson's first novel (after the short story collection Opposable Thumbs) takes place in the 1990s, it often feels as though it could just as easily be set 100 years earlier. African-American man-about-town Cecil Durgin runs the radio station in Three Breezes, Ala., and is a kind of unofficial voice for the (mainly black) residents, serving as DJ for an evangelical Christian program and the requisite country station ("his religious talks were earnest and homespun, his blues promos earthy and charged with sexual innuendo"). Durgin's small Southern town is still run by a tight-knit group of white men, whose hunting cottage Cecil worked at as a boy. His seeming immunity to their intensely racist politics stems from an incident 30 years ago at the lodge, in which a woman was raped and killed with Cecil as the sole witness. Thirty years later, he has told only one person what he saw, but he realizes that this old secret is slowly being leaked, affecting not only his life and that of his family, but the lives of his oldest friends, their parents and possibly the future of the town. Cecil is a complex character, abandoned by his mother as a child and raised by a white couple, feeling out of place no matter where he is and convinced that he has an "alien heart." This brutal, eloquent novel takes the old theme of Southern racial conflict and rewrites it in the present, playing out a drama of the damage caused by festering secrets. (Sept.)

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