Catfish Alley

( 19 )

Overview

A moving debut novel about female friendship, endurance, and hope in the South.

Roxanne Reeves defines her life by the committees she heads and the social status she cultivates. But she is keeping secrets that make her an outsider in her own town, always in search of acceptance. And when she is given a job none of the other white women want-researching the town's African-American history for a tour of local sites-she feels she can't say no.

...

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Catfish Alley

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Overview

A moving debut novel about female friendship, endurance, and hope in the South.

Roxanne Reeves defines her life by the committees she heads and the social status she cultivates. But she is keeping secrets that make her an outsider in her own town, always in search of acceptance. And when she is given a job none of the other white women want-researching the town's African-American history for a tour of local sites-she feels she can't say no.

Elderly Grace Clark, a retired black schoolteacher, reluctantly agrees to become Roxanne's guide. Grace takes Roxanne to Catfish Alley, whose undistinguished structures are nonetheless sacred places to the black community because of what happened there. As Roxanne listens to Grace's stories, and meets her friends, she begins to see differently. She is transported back to the past, especially to 1931, when a racist's hatred for Grace's brother leads to events that continue to change lives decades later. And as Roxanne gains an appreciation of the dreams, courage, and endurance of those she had so easily dismissed, her own life opens up in new and unexpected ways.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Bryant's debut, middle-aged Junior Leaguer Roxanne Reeves throws herself into directing Clarksville, Miss.'s 2002 Pilgrimage Tour of Antebellum Homes and develops, with more trepidation (and community resistance), an African-American Historical Tour. Guiltily admitting to her ignorance of local black history, she asks 89-year-old Grace Clark, a retired African-American school teacher, to consult. Grace takes Roxanne to a part of town known as Catfish Alley; once the lively home of a hotel where Louis Armstrong played, the area is now dotted with warehouses like the one owned by Del Tanner, son of a notorious racist. Unbeknownst to Tanner, his warehouse once housed the first school for black children (and he's not happy when he learns about it). In particular, Grace remembers 1919, when she went to that school for the first time with her brother "Zero," and 1931, when Tanner's father lynched Zero and raped his girlfriend, Adelle, who became the first black nurse at Clarksville Hospital. Though Bryant's approach to narrative is perfunctory, her tale will appeal to readers who enjoyed The Help. The author accesses her own tumultuous Southern history to lend her enchanting tale much local color. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews - Kikus Reviews
A well-intentioned debut of a woman finally rejecting the social and racial dictums of small-town Mississippi.

Roxanne Reeves, a restoration expert and director of the Clarksville Pilgrimage Tour of Antebellum Homes, is asked to research the possibility of offering an African-American tour of her town (suggested by the group's newest member, a Connecticut transplant who doesn't understand the nuanced tension between the blacks and whites in Clarksville). Hesitantly, Roxanne contacts Grace Clark, an 89-year-old ex-schoolteacher to help her uncover Clarksville's neglected history. Roxanne has no interest in the town's black history; according to her "the War is over and the blacks got their rights, so why do we have to dwell on the past?" But she does want to impress Louisa Humboldt (who needs her mansion restored) and so Roxanne is willing to traipse around Clarksville with Grace as she is shown ramshackle testaments to the hardships faced by Mississippiblacks during segregation. Grace shows Roxanne the old schoolhouse for black children, now the lumberyard's warehouse (whose owner, Del Tanner sadly discovers his father was in the KKK and involved in a lynching); the house of her best friend, Adelle Jackson, whose father was the town's first black doctor; and the black-owned Queen City Hotel, where Louis Armstrong played. Grace's youth is revisited through these tours, allowing Roxanne, who seems woefully uninformed regarding Jim Crow, to gain appreciation for the black community she and her social circle prefer to ignore. Along the way, Grace's tragic story unfolds, centering on the tale of her brother Zero, his quest to become a doctor and the violent fate he met at the hands of Del Tanner's father. Roxanne builds powerful bonds with the strong black women she encounters, which enables her to finally reveal the secret of her own less than glorious family origins.

Bryant's sprawling tale of segregation, perseverance and interracial friendships is heartfelt, if at times predictable.

Kirkus Reviews
A well-intentioned debut of a woman finally rejecting the social and racial dictums of small-town Mississippi.

Roxanne Reeves, a restoration expert and director of the Clarksville Pilgrimage Tour of Antebellum Homes, is asked to research the possibility of offering an African-American tour of her town (suggested by the group's newest member, a Connecticut transplant who doesn't understand the nuanced tension between the blacks and whites in Clarksville). Hesitantly, Roxanne contacts Grace Clark, an 89-year-old ex-schoolteacher to help her uncover Clarksville's neglected history. Roxanne has no interest in the town's black history; according to her "the War is over and the blacks got their rights, so why do we have to dwell on the past?" But she does want to impress Louisa Humboldt (who needs her mansion restored) and so Roxanne is willing to traipse around Clarksville with Grace as she is shown ramshackle testaments to the hardships faced by Mississippiblacks during segregation. Grace shows Roxanne the old schoolhouse for black children, now the lumberyard's warehouse (whose owner, Del Tanner sadly discovers his father was in the KKK and involved in a lynching); the house of her best friend, Adelle Jackson, whose father was the town's first black doctor; and the black-owned Queen City Hotel, where Louis Armstrong played. Grace's youth is revisited through these tours, allowing Roxanne, who seems woefully uninformed regarding Jim Crow, to gain appreciation for the black community she and her social circle prefer to ignore. Along the way, Grace's tragic story unfolds, centering on the tale of her brother Zero, his quest to become a doctor and the violent fate he met at the hands of Del Tanner's father. Roxanne builds powerful bonds with the strong black women she encounters, which enables her to finally reveal the secret of her own less than glorious family origins.

Bryant's sprawling tale of segregation, perseverance and interracial friendships is heartfelt, if at times predictable.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781410438232
  • Publisher: Gale Cengage Learning
  • Publication date: 7/6/2011
  • Pages: 493
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynne Bryant grew up in Columbus, Mississippi, and now lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This is her first novel.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(10)

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(7)

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(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2013

    Anonymous

    Great book! A must read! Enjoyed getting to know the characters in the book. This book is book club worthy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2012

    Loved it! A bit like The Help. I love books that jump back and

    Loved it! A bit like The Help. I love books that jump back and forth from the past to the present and are told from several viewpoints.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Catfish Alley is the surprising story of a Junior League, South

    Catfish Alley is the surprising story of a Junior League, Southern woman making friends with an elderly black woman while learning the history of the town she lives in. It is the story of an awakening of this middle-aged, upper-crust woman to what is right in front of her eyes, yet she had never seen before.

    I picked this book up after spending some time in Mississippi and wanting to know more about life there. What I thought was going to be a book about Southern ladies and friendship bloomed into so much more. While friendship is the heart of the novel, Lynne Bryant also weaves in a story of forgiveness and encouragement through the heartbreaking and brutal days of being a black man or woman in Mississippi in 1931.

    Once Introduced to Bryant's characters of Grace, Zero, Addie and Junior, I found myself embroiled in their lives and wrapped up in the story that, while I knew how it would end, was touching and heartbreaking all at the same time.

    Although I love spending time in Mississippi now, I'm glad I didn't then. Bryant captures the fear and injustice of the times without going overboard.
    I enjoyed this book and look forward to Bryant's next story about Mississippi, Alligator Lake.

    Victoria Allman
    author of: SEAsoned: A Chef's Journey with Her Captain

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012

    Catfish Alley

    Enjoyable read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 25, 2011

    Cafish Alley is a MUST READ

    This book got me from the start. Couldn't put it down.
    Lynne BRyant tells the story of 1930's Mississippi with skill and knowledge.
    From Grace to Zero, the characters are vivid and come to life with her story telling.
    Rosie

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2014

    Loved It!

    I loved this book. I read mediocre reviews but decided to take a chance anyway and glad I did... read it in two days. She is definitely on my list of authors to read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    I really enjoyed this book!  Recommend it!  There were times whe

    I really enjoyed this book!  Recommend it!  There were times when I was a little frustrated with the author and had to see if she was black or white. haha.  I think she did a really great job of representing both races, the sterotypes of today and the ignorances of the past. A great story! 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2013

    A good book

    This book was a good book bout what when on in the South back in the day. Hope if aanyonee reaads tnay they enjoy the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2013

    Awesome!!

    A little bit of "Fried Green Tomatoes" mixed with some "The Help", but with a story all its own... love love loved this book!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2013

    Moriah to jordan

    Hey

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Well Done

    Actions and deeds often resonate throughout history being felt for generations. Such is the case in Catfish Alley. While working on a community historical project, Roxanne Reeves must deal with the sins of the past and the scars of the present.

    Set in modern day Mississippi, the book is interwoven with recollections and memories of the 1930s South. The book deals with race, family, and friendships, both then and now. The characters are genuine and wise. The relationships are full of all that real life is made of.

    Even when writing outside her realm of experience, Ms. Bryant's observations are keen and accurate. She has done her homework. She has tried to depict the South with its people and history in a broader sense. She has done it well, and its people proud.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 12, 2011

    Well Worth Reading

    Catfish Alley artfully tackles the racial divide between Blacks and Whites in the South both in the past and as it remains today. The story is told in the first person from the perspective of each character and thereby allows full character development of each. Catfish Alley scrapes the scab off the ugly history of "Jim Crow" and the Ku Klux Klan and delves into the souls of the characters. The chapters alternate between Roxanne, a White Southern Woman who, in her efforts to hide her impoverished past, has cultivated a social status for herself, and the Blacks with whom, for self-serving reasons, she is forcing herself to deal. Her interaction with Grace Clark, a Black retired school teacher, ultimately reveals events that will change the lives of Roxanne and every Black person with whom she has come in contact. Catfish Alley is simply and yet beautifully written. It evokes the full range of emotions from outrage to tears. The descriptions of the communities in Mississippi leave you feeling like you can almost see the antebellum homes, smell the hot, humid air and hear the crickets and tree frogs. This novel is a "page-turner" and one that you don't want to end. Shana Plummer Sweet Soul Sisters Book Club

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    Posted August 2, 2011

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    Posted May 1, 2011

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    Posted March 23, 2014

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    Posted July 17, 2011

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    Posted February 20, 2012

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    Posted February 3, 2012

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    Posted March 21, 2012

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