cover image A Story of Deep Delight

A Story of Deep Delight

Thomas McNamee. Viking Books, $19.95 (480pp) ISBN 978-0-670-81896-9

McNamee's audacious family saga opens in 1811 as the Chickasaw Indians are about to be swindled out of their ancestral lands in Tennessee and Kentucky by Andrew Jackson. Through the experiences of young chief Tchula Homa, we understand the tribe's righteous rage. The second part of this loose triptych focuses on Sylvester, a black slave eventually freed, and Felice, the plantation owner's mistress whom Sylvester loves. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, the Yankee conquest of Memphis, Shiloh and the Ku Klux Klan's birth serve as backdrop. Then we jump to the near-present (1958-1980) to follow the youth of Wordlaw Corelli, his career as a painter and the foundering of his marriage to a singer-songwriter. Cocaine addiction, Vietnam, Martin Luther King's assassination are the realities of this world. Corelli's father, a doctor turned real estate developer, clears land for the Chickasaw Plaza Shopping Center. To what extent is white Americans' antagonism toward blacks, Indians, nonwhites bred in the bone? What is the cost of ``progress'' in an inhuman society? These somber questions thread through McNamee's ( The Grizzly Bear ) haunting, beautifully written multigenerational novel. (Oct.)