Crossing the River

Crossing the River

by Fenton Johnson, Hillel Black

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Martha Bragg Picket is an original. Brandishing her confederate lineage and tossing her red hair, she crosses the river near her Kentucky home in the mid-1940s, stepping out of her fundamentalist Baptist world, and setting convention on its ear. Across the river, Martha crashes the sacrosanct male preserve of the Miracle Inn, orders a beer, and seduces owner Bernie Miracle, a Catholic. Their unlikely marriage endures for 20 years, puzzling their Catholic neighbors because it produces only one offspring. Martha's dormant expectancies of life are stirred by a slick, philandering Yankee contractor, with whom she enjoys a liberating though scandalous affair. Though this is essentially the story of a woman's awakening, not so much sexually as in terms of her identity, there are other battles between the sexes here. Johnson, recipient of numerous literary awards, is a storyteller of distinction. He knows the regional, religious and emotional insularity of his Kentucky characters and reveals them with sly humor. (Aug.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Johnson's first novel contrasts the teetotaling Baptists of Mount Hermon, Kentucky, with their liquor-peddling Catholic neighbors north of the Knobs Fork River. On a dare, Martha Pickett crosses the river to buy beer and soon thereafter marries the tavern owner, Bernie Miracle. Twenty-three years later she feels smothered by the Miracle clan. When a Detroit contractor arrives to build a new bridge, she is drawn into an affair only to discover that her lover is also involved with the young woman from Mount Hermon who is being courted by her own son. Like the country music lyrics sung by one of the main characters, Johnson's story is full of passion and pain. It is usually convincing but suffers from soap-opera excess.-- Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville

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Carol Publishing Group
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