Just as Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County is a microcosm of the anguish of the post-Civil War South, so Marius's Bourbon County in eastern Tennessee is a mirror of the anxieties, racial tensions and xenophobia of mainstream America in the aftermath of World War I. Paul Alexander, the narrator of this magnificent novel, is a Greek immigrant raised in Belgium who is haunted by the specters of his two closest friends, both killed alongside him in battle. As Alexander, himself a wounded young veteran, adjusts to life in provincial Tennessee, where he works as a chemist in an iron foundry, the shades of his two dead buddies--or his hallucination of them--interact with him and comment ironically on the action. Bourbonville's crises turn on the conflict of values between Moreland Pinkerton, a crude, expansive foundry owner emblematic of untamed industrial progress, and Brian Ledbetter, an old independent farmer with five wayward stepsons. Writing with the depth and veracity of classic realist fiction, Marius ( Bound for the Promised Land ) spins subplots about Paul's search for the cowardly father who abandoned him; Paul's passionate but loveless affair with an older woman; and a black WW I pilot's visions of political revolution. A wondrous odyssey, this moving novel is a deep meditation on whether our lives are shaped by destiny or a chain of accidents. (May)
Marius's background as Tennessean and historian is clearly reflected in his first novel since Bound for the Promised Land ( LJ 6/15/76) . It is a compex story of life in the small Tennessee town of Bourbonville following World War I, told from the viewpoint of a Greek refugee who finds himself thrust into the middle of a feud between the town's two leading citizens. Haunted by the ghosts of two dead wartime companions and his attempt to deny his own heritage, Paul finds himself inexorably drawn into the life of the town. He soon finds that everyone in Bourbonville is haunted--by xenophobia, racism, religious fanaticism, the frustration of unfulfilled dreams, and the memories of an earlier war. The result is an explosion of violence that is ultimately offset by the redemptive power of love. Marius, who dedicated this book to his father, obviously drew heavily on his family's personal history to construct this resonant, if at times somewhat melodramatic, tale that marvelously captures the sense of time and place. Highly recommended, especially for public libraries.--David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.