The Messenger of Magnolia Street [NOOK Book]


Twelve years have passed since Nehemiah Trust left his hometown of Shibboleth, Alabama. Now a successful aide in Washington DC, Nehemiah is shocked when his brother Billy and high-school girlfriend Trice show up on his doorstep warning that something is stealing the life of what should be their idyllic hometown. Billy and Trice are convinced that only Nehemiah can help. As the three friends join together to save the place they call home, they learn the solution may require a ...

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The Messenger of Magnolia Street

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Twelve years have passed since Nehemiah Trust left his hometown of Shibboleth, Alabama. Now a successful aide in Washington DC, Nehemiah is shocked when his brother Billy and high-school girlfriend Trice show up on his doorstep warning that something is stealing the life of what should be their idyllic hometown. Billy and Trice are convinced that only Nehemiah can help. As the three friends join together to save the place they call home, they learn the solution may require a willingness to sacrifice everything.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jordan's Southern gothic debut transports readers to Shibboleth, Ala., a sleepy anytown of "cornbread and ladybugs"-and miracles of divine intervention-that is being sucked dry by a mysterious, sinister force. An omniscient, grandiloquent narrator called the Recorder tells the story of three childhood friends who are steered by God to redeem their town. The novel's protagonist and the town's beloved son, Nehemiah Trust, left Shibboleth for Washington, D.C., 12 years earlier for a career on Capitol Hill, but like his biblical namesake, he is "destined to save his city and his people." Nehemiah's childhood friend (and new romantic interest), Trice, is a woman gifted with eerily prescient visions, and along with Nehemiah's older brother Billy, heads to D.C. to fetch him home. "Something is trying to steal Shibboleth," she warns, perturbed by the town's curiously dry wells and a premonition of an empty future. Back home, time and the laws of nature bend as the past folds into the present, and the smell of sulfur increasingly suffuses the novel as the supernatural and spiritual battle heats up. Readers eager for an apocalyptic story about "the presence of evil and the power of good" may embrace this novel. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hell's busted loose-literally-in Shibboleth, Ala., and the town's salvation resides in the form of Nehemiah Trust, reluctant prodigal son. A chain of events was set in motion when Nehemiah Trust left Shibboleth some 12 years earlier for Senator Honeywell's offices in Washington, D.C. Seems that Nehemiah, along with his brother, Billy, and childhood friend Trice, were the unacknowledged protectors of all that was good in the dusty Southern town. With Nehemiah's departure, that shield was broken, giving evil a chance to move in. As the underground springs dry, the skies darken and town folk begin to fade, Trice and Billy fetch Nehemiah from the capital to help set things right. But first, Nehemiah must be brought back into the fold-heart and soul. His aunt Kate (proprietor of the town diner) plies him with fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, peach cobbler; Trice (his unrecognized soulmate) hesitantly voices her premonitions. As Jordan (The Gin Girl, 2003) notes, Nehemiah is the town's chosen one: "If they'd had a football team, he would have been their quarterback. If there had been a crowning, he would've been their prince. . . . Not a soul grew up more adored in this good town." At least once before, evil visited the hamlet: When John Robert's house went up in an unholy blaze, Nehemiah, alerted by Trice, called down torrents of rain that saved the building. (Nehemiah passed through the inferno unscathed, and rescued the man who came to be known as Blister.) But this time, the menace is far worse. As the childhood trio enters the underground springs and prepares to battle the unnamed presence within, a Recording Angel stands by to document the conflict. Above ground, the citizens ofShibboleth attempt to correct decades-old wrongs in what little time remains. What could have been a soppy parable, or prose meant for the converted, is turned into a delight in Jordan's deft hands. A beautifully written, atmospheric tale.
Grand Rapids Press
“A remarkable book. One is reminded of the film It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Crossings Book Club
“When a new year starts with a novel this good, it bodes well for the whole year....”
“In the best tradition of Stephen King and Peter Straub, Jordan creates an eerily sinister landscape….”
Southern Living
“This is a tale of wonder … Immerse yourself in River Jordan’s wondrously redemptive tale.”
Tampa Tribune
“Jordan’s prose, dazzlingly sparse in places, conjures up the traditions of Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee and Peter Straub….”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061977749
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/6/2009
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 328,628
  • File size: 503 KB

Meet the Author

River Jordan

River Jordan is a storyteller of the southern variety and spent ten years as a playwright with the Loblolly Theatre group. She now teaches and speaks on "The Power of Story" around the country. She is currently completing a new work of fiction and a collection of essays.

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Read an Excerpt

The Messenger of Magnolia Street

A Novel
By River Jordan

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 River Jordan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060841761

Chapter One

Sunday, 11:36 P.M.

God is walking through Shibboleth, rummaging through the pockets of his memory, the distant past and the near future. The people of Shibboleth are sleeping, unaware of his presence or that he is considering them and their present circumstances.

He turns the corner of Magnolia and Main, observing that time has not passed well here but has come tearing its way along with such deceptive quietness that the people live unaware, tricked into silence. This isn't the way that the story of Shibboleth, keeper of an eternal key, was meant to unfold. Can one simple town be the keeper of something so precious you ask? And can that trust still stand when a hundred years have passed, have rolled their way along into the over and beyond? Well, that's what you're here to discover and what I'm here to write down, because I am the Recorder of all that ever was, is now, or is yet to come. Tough job, you say. Well, yes, of course, but then it's my created purpose until the end of -- yes, here's that word of elusive comportment -- time. But enough about me. Right now you don't know beyond this moment. Only that currently the town of Shibboleth has the smell of rotten eggs. Of secret stealth and things that move along wishing to be left alone. You would notice this if you traveled here. If you were walking down the street in the twilight hours of the evening, you would feel it under your skin, would look over your shoulder twice, possibly even three times, wondering if someone, or something, were following. And if you were fast enough on your feet, you might see a dark mist hovering above the ground like the breath of an unseen predator. Watch closely now, it's breathing in and out of the very ground, the very foundation of Shibboleth. An inky blackness that hovers and moves at will. You might see it but not the good citizens. As I told you, they are sleeping. In their spirits and in their minds. Some of them have forgotten that the dark passages of their childhood imaginings are relative and real. That their guarded treasure was the Key. The eternal fact that one hope, one dream, one falling wish is worth protecting. Of such simple things the world is made, and kept. In this clear fact, the good people of Shibboleth knew for certain who they were and what was meant to be. In a more distant past, all of Shibboleth knew this. Pilgrimages were made, one by one, or in hand-held groups, down a well-worn path where wild violets bloomed in the grass, to the repository of all their heart's well-worn desires, their spirits best-said prayers, the Well. Coin by coin they cradled wishes and cast them off, dropping them like falling stars into the clear spring water waiting. And in due season, when time passed into time, the dreams and wishes would manifest on the breath of their believing. And the Key was so well protected, so well kept, that the people breathed a heavy sigh of satisfaction, and rested. But their rest fell into a time of rest and then a time of forgetting.

Now look. I stand at the forgotten path, weed-eaten and overgrown. The Well now dry. And my wings tremble with so much loss, while time moves forward full of empty.

On the surface, Shibboleth is still very much the same as many small Southern towns you've driven through on your way to somewhere else. There is a town square (more of a circle really) that holds Shibboleth City Hall, Kate's Diner, Zadok's Barbershop, Obie's Salon for Women, a Piggly Wiggly grocery, and on the far reaches of the square, the old PURE station, which has been closed now for many years. The post office is inside City Hall. There are no parking meters, and people can park and take care of business for as long as business takes.

In the middle of this circle is a large Heritage Oak tree. Shibboleth is full of oaks, water oaks and scrub oaks to name a few, but this one is the granddaddy of them all. It has an official plaque that tells how many wars it has survived and that it is so old it was here before America. In the minds of the people of Shibboleth, that's farther back than anyone needs to go.

From a low-flying hawk's eye, depending on the season, you can see fields of cotton and of corn, rows of beans, or rows of collards, mustard greens, and potatoes. But regardless of the season, what will strike you most is the sleepy patchwork pattern fashioned from the living essence of these kindred souls. You will hear people's voices rising on the air, their hands clapping with excitement at the telling of their stories, or the softhearted music of their listening to the stories of another. And on happy occasions, grand occasions, you will catch them buck-dancing until they are red-faced and breathless. I have watched this melody of life for more years than you've been steady on your feet. It is the dance of time.

The people in this small town are busy with the charms of contentedly raising their children, and their children's children, and with the ultimate blessing of divine grace, their children's children's children. One generation after the next gazing over their shoulders at children in the yards or up the trees, calling, "Not too far. Not too high." To the people of Shibboleth, children are the very essence, the future of their faith in everything everlasting and good to the last drop. They memorize the size of their hands, the smell of their sweaty hair, the expressions in their large, trusting eyes, their growing games and funny sayings. And they will tell the stories of their babydom till kingdom come.


Excerpted from The Messenger of Magnolia Street by River Jordan Copyright © 2005 by River Jordan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2006


    The Messenger of Magnolia Street is a beautifully kinetically charged spiritual adventure into the mystery of the human soul. It exemplifies how important the interaction of our daily lives are from the smallest thing such as a coin tossed into the wishing well of time to the willingness to stand in evil¿s way for a dear brother. The waters flow deep and clear from River Jordan.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2006

    Great Story From A Great Storyteller

    Beautiful love story. Reminded me in places of the movie, Back to the Future. Great prose. Couldn't put it down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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