cover image The Slow Moon

The Slow Moon

Elizabeth Cox, . . Random, $23.95 (300pp) ISBN 978-0-679-46328-3

Cox's carefully wrought latest (following Familiar Ground ) delineates the heartbreaking cruelty that sunders a group of adolescent friends in a small Tennessee town. During a late-night party, high school sweethearts Sophie and Crow go off into the woods. When Crow leaves Sophie for 20 minutes to fetch a condom, she's raped and beaten by a group of boys she will not be able to identify after the trauma. To the shock of the town, Crow, known to be a fine and upstanding young man, is charged with her attack. Cox painstakingly enters the consciousness of the various characters who have a stake in Crow's fate, including his diffident, religious mother, Helen, and adulterous stepfather, Carl; Crow's younger brother, Johnny, who struggles to come to terms with his homosexual attraction for Tom, one of the boys in Crow's band; the judge adjudicating Crow's case, Aurelia Bailey, who has to manage her own troubled teenage boy, Bobbie; and other teens and townsfolk. The fact of Crow's innocence is plain to all, yet no one moves to defend him, not even Sophie, who claims she can't remember what happened. Cox stands back and lets the truth emerge with quiet determination. (Aug. 8)