cover image Walking Across Egypt

Walking Across Egypt

Clyde Edgerton. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $17.95 (218pp) ISBN 978-0-912697-51-2

Psychiatrist Tom More of Love in the Ruins reappears in one of the most accessible of Percy's novels. The author has not abandoned his serious inquiry into the nature of good and evil, but he has integrated his philosophizing into a fast-paced narrative with the suspense of a thriller. When Moreon parole from federal prison where he did time for selling drugsreturns to his Louisiana hometown, he immediately notices bizarre personality changes in many people, including his wife Ellen. All exhibit suppressed cortical function, manifested in strange speech patterns and sexual behavior. With the help of his cousin, epidemiologist Lucy Lipscomb, More discovers the source of this syndrome: the town's drinking water has been laced with heavy sodium from the area's nuclear facility. Leading citizens of the community are involved, all in the name of benevolent eugenics and social concern. Parallels to the workof Nazi doctors are made obvious to More by a disgraced parish priest. Tension grows as the conspirators threaten to send More back to jail if he exposes them. As usual, Percy's ear for languageespecially the layers of meaning in even the most casual conversationis superb. This book is as timely as its concerns with child abuse and ultraconservative zealotry, and as classic as its exploration of the eternal verities. 75,000 first printing; BOMC dual main selection. (April)