From the Publisher
"Illuminates a great deal not only about black and white Americans and the history of our depressed, desperate intermingling but also about the sturdiness of humbler notions like decency and love. . . . The beauty of Mr. French’s language is exceptional."
New York Times Book Review
"Evocative and ruthless . . . French beautifully sketches Holly’s tale, painting characters rich enough to demand sympathy even as they react with unthinking racism."
Washington Post Bookworld
"Dramatically vivid. . . . Readers will enjoy Holly for the distinctive poetry of much of its prose, and for its evocation of an isolated world that unhappily reflects too accurately the larger truths of our nation’s racial divide."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Written in prose that struggles to capture the authentic coastal Carolina patois, this disappointing second novel from the author of the acclaimed Billy (1993) is ruefully nave and uneven. Again, French tells a tale of racial injustice and redemption. During the final months of WWII, Holly Hill, an artless 19-year-old poor white girl engaged to her high-school sweetheart, a sailor on duty in the Pacific, avoids total boredom in the backwater of Supply, N.C., by dallying with the few men in town not at war. After writing her fiance a letter breaking off their engagement, the one-dimensional heroine learns of his death and burial at sea and undergoes a rather unlikely epiphany, retreating into the solitude of grief-induced asceticism. Throughout the first two-thirds of the book, cricket calls and night-bug cries abound as the highly repetitive narrative crawls phlegmatically along without inspiring much interest in-or empathy for-any of its central characters. It all picks up in the final third, however, when Holly encounters Elias, a copper-skinned young black artist from Washington, D.C., who lost an arm in the battle for Europe. Elias is seeking refuge with his grandmother, hoping to heal the wounds to his soul, when he and Holly begin their friendship. With the ominous unfolding of that friendship into forbidden romance, the book comes to life and reaches for a sense of transcendant meaning. The soaring note of redemption French hits at the end of the novel is beautiful and so poignant it may induce tears. But it's not of an aesthetic piece with what preceded it. (May)
Set in the final year of World War II, in a small southern town called Supply, this beautifully written second novel by the author of the acclaimed Billy (LJ 10/1/93) tells of a 20-year-old white woman, Holly. Holly is struggling to come to a decision about her engagement to Billy, a local boy serving in the Pacific. She and her friend Elsie continue to play the local field, and eventually Holly decides to break off with Billy. Meanwhile, her brother Bobby returns from battle with a head wound and is much changed. When Billy is killed, Holly goes through intense psychological change as well: the effect of the distant war is very much felt at home. Supply's black population is relegated to a tract of land called the Back Land, where Holly gets to know a recently discharged amputee. The book really takes off when their relationship begins to deepen, gathering irresistible momentum. Recommended for all fiction collections.-David Dodd, Univ. of Colorado at Colorado Springs