cover image I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots

I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots

Susan Straight. Hyperion Books, $19.95 (355pp) ISBN 978-1-56282-963-6

Elegantly constructed and eloquently written, Straight's ( Aquaboogie ) second book is a coming-of-age novel of grand proportions. The story she tells is as monumental as its main character. In 1959, 13-year-old Marietta Cook lives with her ailing mother in the tiny, Gullah-speaking village of Pine Gardens, S.C. They eke out a precarious existence by gardening, fishing and selling handwoven baskets by the roadside. Marietta, who is descended on her dead father's side from a slave the townspeople remember as ``Africa woman,'' is far darker-skinned than anyone else in the community, and she is enormously tall. This--and her taciturn nature in a society where women fill their days with constant talk--makes her an outsider who is never fully accepted, not even by her family. When her mother dies, Marietta leaves Pine Gardens for Charleston ? ck. till now she's said to have been in Pine Gardens.// ok and participates briefly in the civil rights movement, an experience that resonates for her later, when she finds herself doing day work in the homes of wealthy white women. When she returns home, pregnant, a gruff yet loving aunt helps her to give birth to twin boys and becomes an uneasy role model. The novel follows the small family to the twins' adulthood, as they struggle to become professional football players. Throughout, Marietta is an impassive yet transfixing character who bears her troubles stoically, complex though they often are. Along with Straight's fluid prose and so as not to virtually repeat `eloquently written' above accomplished use of dialogue, this powerful book is remarkable for the dignity and integrity with which she infuses her characters and their lives. BOMC selection; author tour. (June)