cover image Hello Down There

Hello Down There

Michael Parker. Scribner Book Company, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-684-19424-0

Set in the 1950s, this haunting first novel begins amid the ruins of a broken life. In a misguided attempt to break free of the rigid Southern society he lives in, wealthy young Edwin Keane has made a tragic mistake. As the small town of Trent, N.C., conspires to protect him from the consequences of his actions, Edwin descends into an abyss of guilt and morphine addiction. Redemption lies in the love of 17-year-old Eureka Speight, daughter of a bitter, displaced dirt farmer, but first Edwin must overcome his addiction and confront the past. Further complicating their romance is a cast of disapproving relatives and townspeople, sympathetically portrayed villains with their own psychological wounds who can more readily condone violence and despair than a violation of the social code. This is Southern gothic intrigue and eccentricity at its best, with language playing an integral part in the action. In Parker's intensely imaginative world, metaphor can be addictive, stories have the power to free stultified lives and telling the truth can redeem the sins of the past. Rich and compassionate, his is a memorable story. (Feb.)