A Visitation of Spirits

Randall Kenan, Author Grove/Atlantic $17.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1118-0
As its title suggests, a powerful strain of mysticism runs through this story of personal awakening in a black North Carolina family, but first-time novelist Kenan has a rare gift for naturalism as well, capturing the texture of farm life with vivid detail. The novel follows Horace Cross, a brilliant, tormented teenager who is his family's greatest hope, through a night when demons--perhaps literal, perhaps imagined--force him to confront his bleakest thoughts. Revolted by his homosexuality, flummoxed by his nonconformity and resentful of his family's closed-mindedness, Horace careens toward disaster, while in scenes that leap through time, we meet the other generations of the Cross family. Kenan shapes his novel as a series of struggles for understanding and enlightenment, contrasting Horace's strife with an older cousin's efforts to understand him. Although shifts in time and tone are often jarring and sometimes gratuitous, the strength and richness of Kenan's best passages sweep any objections aside. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/06/1989
Release date: 07/01/1989
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-385-41505-7
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-375-70397-3
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