Leslie Wells, Author . Warner $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-446-52693-7

Set in the tobacco-farming country of southern Virginia in 1948, this dark first novel describes an existence not much different from life in the antebellum era. Crops are still harvested by hand, blacks and whites live in separate if often similar worlds and white children walk to one-room schoolhouses. Narrator Cora Mae Slaughter, 16, one of four children of a struggling white tenant farmer and his downtrodden wife, is an avid reader who finds a haven in that schoolhouse, not only from her alcoholic and brutal father but also from the mockery of her classmates, who tease her about her clubfoot. Afraid she'll never have a boyfriend, Cora is easy prey for itinerant farm laborer Aaron Melville. Seduced as much by Aaron's apparently superior background as by his kisses, Cora follows him to a cabin, where he rapes her. Shamed and hopeful of winning his love, she stays with him, and they rove from farm to farm in search of work. After the birth of baby Joshua, Aaron's behavior improves for a time, but before long, he begins to mistreat Cora in increasingly painful and perverse ways. The reader hopes that she'll succeed in breaking away from Aaron's control, as she does in establishing a friendship with a young black woman. Wells idealizes the women's relationship beyond credibility, however, and she also fails to make Cora's acquiescence and entrapment plausible. Cora's tale rings most true not when she is describing, often in cliché-ridden prose, her suffering and salvation, but in Wells's faithful renditions of southern Virginia speech and customs. The set piece on the hand curing of tobacco (which gives the book its double-meaning title) is a fascinating depiction of a bygone way of life. 5-city author tour.(May 3)

Reviewed on: 05/07/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-0-7595-4326-3
Portable Document Format (PDF) - 256 pages - 978-0-7595-9358-9
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-7595-6324-7
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-446-67866-7
Ebook - 978-0-7595-7299-7
Ebook - 978-0-446-50186-6
Ebook - 978-0-7595-2337-1
Open Ebook - 152 pages - 978-0-446-58812-6
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