cover image Sacred Dust

Sacred Dust

David Hill. Delacorte Press, $22.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31534-0

Eighty years of bloody race relations in a rural Alabama county unfold in a debut that takes all the staples of Southern fiction-a Faulknerian array of narrators; a landscape where secrets never die; twisted religion; and true religion-and integrates them into a teeming, richly detailed mural of a novel. In 1914, when he's a boy, Hezekiah's family and the rest of the county's blacks are driven from Prince George, Ala. Later, in the Everglades, Seraphine Jackson, a white woman, is raped and hanged after her affair with the young Hezekiah. In the 1980s, back in Prince George, a black man is killed for daring to go fishing in the county. Rose of Sharon, who's white, knows her husband and the other upstanding Klansmen are responsible. Hill employs a large cast of narrators whose voices animate his sweeping canvas with gut-wrenching visceral details and are imbued with sometimes bizarre, sometimes ironic good humor. At the heart of the story are two friendships between Moena, Hez's mother, and Eula Pearl, Rose's mother, who played together as children; and between Rose and her neighbor Lily, who find the courage to take a stand, to act against family and tradition to expose a murderer and ""set the past to rights."" Hill, a veteran screenwriter, knows how to keep a lot of balls in the air. But there is language here-rich, often excessive or portentous, but unfailingly packed with generous emotion and a breathing history-that could exist only on the page. It's that language that bestows moral gravity and credibility on Hills's panoramic vision of a reconciliation of the races. Major ad/promo; author tour. (June)