cover image Loving the Dead and Gone

Loving the Dead and Gone

Judith Turner-Yamamoto. Regal House, $17.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-64603-258-7

Turner-Yamamoto’s bittersweet fantastical debut involves the parallel stories of two grieving women. In 1963 Donald Ray Spencer, 19, dies in a car accident in Clear Creek, N.C. The author then flashes back to 1925 Clear Creek when Aurilla Cutter, at 22, meets tobacco farmer Joe Cutter. Aurilla’s marriage to Joe is just one of many choices she regrets, including not running away with Joe’s youngest brother, Hank, as well as her seeming inability to love her daughter, Berta Mae. Berta Mae marries Clayton Bishop, first to arrive at the site of Donald Ray’s crash during a fishing trip. Clayton begins an affair with Donald Ray’s young widow Darlene, 17, who believes Donald Ray’s spirit is still alive. Though it can be hard to follow the large cast of interrelated characters, their connections eventually come to light with surprising revelations. Turner-Yamamoto does a good job developing parallels between Darlene’s and Aurilla’s lives, as both women refuse to let go of their dead lovers and continue to be haunted by their ghosts. As Aurilla says near the end, “Loving the dead and gone was the sweetest love of all.” Reading this story is almost as delectable. (Sept.)