Susan Dobb, Author, Susan Dodd, Author Viking Books $18.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-670-82180-8
The story of Zerelda Cole James Samuel, mother of the infamous ``James Boys,'' Jesse and Frank, is told in an absorbing novel whose only fault is an occasional lapse into inflated prose. Mostly, however, Dodd's language is incandescentstrong and lyrical. A tall, ungainly, rebellious hoyden of 16 when she marries her first husband, Robert James, and endures the lot of a traveling parson's wife, Zerel soon is widowed and left with a handful of children to raise; they call her ``Mamaw.'' Later joined by other half-siblings after Zerel remarries, Jesse and Frank (Bud) have a wild streak, given forceful expression when the Confederacy loses the Civil War, and they are forced to swear loyalty to the Union. Even when they begin to rob banks and trains, murdering innocent civilians in cold blood, Mamaw never stops loving her sons and fearing for their souls and their fates. Strong and stoic, Mamaw is a monumental, almost mythical figure. Yet, even while depicting the unwavering loyalty of a mother's love, Dodd may not convince some readers that an otherwise moral woman could condone the vicious brutality that was the James brothers' trademark. Dodd is more successful in conveying the ``hot and dangerous'' love the public held for the famous desperadoes, exponents of certain features in the American character. Even with its flaws, Dodd's third novel (after No Earthly Notion ) establishes her as a gifted writer. (September)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
Genre: Fiction
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