Taking Lottie Home

Taking Lottie Home

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by Terry Kay

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When Foster Lanier and Ben Phelps are released from a professional baseball team in 1904, it is the only experience they have in common, until they meet a runaway -- a girl-woman named Lottie Parker -- on the train that takes them from Augusta, Georgia, and away from their dreams of greatness.

Foster will marry her and father her son.

Ben will escort her


When Foster Lanier and Ben Phelps are released from a professional baseball team in 1904, it is the only experience they have in common, until they meet a runaway -- a girl-woman named Lottie Parker -- on the train that takes them from Augusta, Georgia, and away from their dreams of greatness.

Foster will marry her and father her son.

Ben will escort her home.

And Lottie will change the lives of everyone she meets, from the day she runs away until she finally finds the place where she belongs.

Editorial Reviews

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Captivating...timeless...Taking Lottie Home offers the whole literary package-imagery and metaphor, characters wound together in an ennobling story.
Orlando Sentinel
Kay's prose has an almost dreamlike accessibility, flowing as smoothly as a river without curves.
If there was ever a doubt that Terry Kay had another novel in him to equal To Dance with the White Dog, Taking Lottie Home should dispel that doubt.
Pat Conroy
Terry Kay's best novels have always happened when Kay himself falls in dazzling love with the characters he is creating. When his engagement with those characters is total, he creates worlds where love sets all the rules, makes all the appointments, and breaks all the hearts. This is Terry Kay country. Terry has never created a woman he loves more than Lottie Lanier. Taking Lottie Home is his best book.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in Georgia at the beginning of the 20th century, this latest novel by the popular author of Shadow Song is an evocative, atmospheric and elegiac story of an uncommon woman and the three men she loves. Lottie Augusta Barton, "angel of the lonesome," is born in a tumbledown river house in Augusta. To escape from her troubled family, she takes to the road in 1904 with a traveling salesman. On the train, she meets Ben Phelps and Foster Lanier, baseball players just cut from the Augusta Hornets. Ben, nearly as sweet-natured as Lottie, is on his way home to a good job in a dry-goods store in his home town of Jericho. Foster, drunk and down on his luck, takes up with Lottie and they both join a traveling carnival. To Ben's surprise, when the carnival comes to Jericho, Foster's strange generosity sets Ben up as a local hero in a carny baseball game, and almost kindles romance between Ben and Lottie. Several years later, when Ben is engaged to his boss Arthur Ledford's daughter, Sally, he hears from Lottie; she and Foster married and have a son, called Little Ben, but Foster is dying and would like to see Ben again. Ben goes to Kentucky, and ends up bringing Lottie and her son to stay in his mother's house for a time, when both fall ill. The townspeople flutter around Lottie, whose radiant, serene presence draws them to her like moths to a gentle flame. A local lowlife attempts to blackmail Lottie with her carnival past, but Arthur Ledford, who's come to love Lottie, rescues her. Ben takes her home to Augusta; then he returns to Jericho, marries Sally and never sees Lottie again. Little Ben comes back, though, and in an epilogue, his daughter, the story's offscreen narrator, adds a poignant twist to the narrative. Though slow at the outset, this affecting novel glows with warmth and sincerity, and manifests Kay's customary ability to pull at the heartstrings. 6-city author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I cannot say, as fact, this is what happened, or how it happened, yet it is, I believe, fairly close to the truth -- truth being what it is, a piecemeal kind of thing best told with enough stretch in it to fit more than one certainty.

Some of it was revealed straight to me in the straight kind of way that you trust without the slightest thought of doubt. Some of it was hearsay from so many voices in so many tellings, it was like an echo that is far off and mystic. Some of it was taken from a journal written in the thin cursive strokes of a young woman who was in love, and from letters tied in a stack by a green ribbon, then tucked away in the corner of a trunk to become dry and brittle over dry and brittle years. Some of it -- most of it, to be honest -- is nothing more than my imagination playing fancy with could-have-beens.

I know this: it was important to put it all together, to discover the things -- good and hurtful -- that have had me on a search for much of my life, like an old and addled prospector following a bogus map in his hunt for gold, gold so pure that the touch of a pickax would cause it to seep from the earth like honey.

Some things sound so good it is impossible not believing in them.

Gold flowing like honey.


I have chosen to begin in 1904 with the dream-ending sorrow of two men who are as embedded in me as bone marrow, one through his blood, one by his presence. It is the most likely place I know to begin. In the odd way that life, or circumstance, bumps people around, sends them colliding into one another, they would find themselves in the company of a girl-woman named Lottie, and she would change themforever.

As she would change everyone who knew her.

Two players would be cut from the team and Foster Lanier would be one of them.

Foster knew it.

He had known it for three weeks, in the same way animals could sense terror, and now it was the night before the cuts and he had taken a bottle of Kentucky bourbon and walked alone to the bridge that crossed the Savannah River, separating South Carolina and Georgia like a steel hyphen.

The night was black and hard, thick with unmoving heat and the urine smell of the river sliding through the back streets of Augusta. Foster did not like the river and the sour odor and the heat and the plague of bugs crawling at his face and neck to drink from the perspiration that oozed from him. He did not like Augusta. He could not breathe clean, sweet Kentucky air in Augusta. Augusta air lodged in his throat, leaving him choking and weak. But he would soon be on a train for Kentucky -- tomorrow night or the day after -- and there would be a pickup game with a pickup team and he would hear people in the stands muttering his name with surprise, telling their children, "There's Foster Lanier. You never saw nobody as good as Foster Lanier." The thought pleased him. He smiled and drank a full swallow from the bottle. It was good bourbon. Kentucky on the label and Kentucky in the taste. It was to be his last night in professional baseball. He deserved good bourbon.

He walked below the pilings of the bridge to the river shore, to a weeping willow with dying limbs. He sat in the grass and stared across the river at the row of tiny homes with eyedots of kerosene lamps glowing in windows. River shanty homes. He was twenty-nine years old. He had collapsed during wind sprints on the first day of workouts. His legs ached. There was a sore on the shin of his right leg where the blade of a spike had sliced to the bone. The sore had not healed in two years. It stayed scabbed and bled on touch and the skin around it had begun to crinkle like cigarette wrapping paper. The sore leg had made him sick. He had lost weight and he could hear sloshing sounds in his abdomen when he tried to run. There were mornings when he struggled to pull himself from his bed.

He was twenty-nine years old and he had played professional baseball for a dozen years. Not with the big teams. Not with the New Yorkers or for Boston or Detroit. But he had played against the best -- by God, the best -- from Kentucky to Louisiana, including one season in New Jersey. He had seen the big leaguers come and go, had played with them and against them, and, by God, he had been as good as any of them on the best of his days.

The best of his days were over, he thought. Tomorrow he would be cut. Cut from a team of boys who had played lately on sandfields and in pastures. God-o-mighty. Boys who were not long weaned from dragging at their mother's milk-swollen tits while he was turning double plays for a team in Lexington, like a New York stage dancer fancy-footing a tap dance that made hearts race with gladness.

He scrubbed the perspiration from his face with the forearm of his shirt, swallowed again from the bourbon, and the fire of the alcohol burned his throat and he sucked for air -- open-mouthed, slow, deep, wheezing. The bourbon seeped into his brain and into the bloodless ash coloring of his face. He sat quietly, knees up, his wrists locked over his kneecaps, holding the bottle in the fingers of both hands, gazing at the sliding river, thinking of the games he had memorized.

No, not games. Moments of games. Fragments of rude, physical awakenings when the body moved faster...

Taking Lottie Home. Copyright © by Terry Kay. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are saying about this

Pat Conroy
Terry Kay is a pefect writer for those who love to read.
—(Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides)

Meet the Author

Terry Kay is the author of the bestsellers Shadow Song and To Dance with the Mite Dog, as well as The Kidnapping of Aaron Greene, The Runaway, Dark Thirty, After Eli, The Year the Lights Came On, and To Whom the Angel Spoke. He has written for television--winning a Southern Regional Emmy--and magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. He lives in Athens, Georgia.

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Taking Lottie Home 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some books, as well as characters, can haunt you for days, maybe years, after the reading is done. 'Taking Lottie Home' is such a book. And Lottie Lanier is just such a character: part girl, part woman, and all too giving, with eyes no one ever forgets. So, too, is the character Ben Phelps, the young would-be dream-catcher, who catches the ball but only worships the dream, living it vicariously through the faraway exploits of the intangible, aloof Milo Wade. And there's Foster Lanier, who tastes the dream, only to see it turn bitter before finding his final, brief comfort in the arms of Lottie. Then there is Arthur Ledford, a lonely, tormented, fair but angry man, whose role in Lottie's life turns out to be nearly as surprising as Lottie herself. Even the minor characters are hard to forget: Ben's mother, Margaret Phelps, who clings to Lottie's child, little Ben; Ben's fiancee, Sally, who sees Lottie as the greatest threat to her happiness; Arthur's wife, Alice, a cold, hateful woman who seems to believe all women should be miserable by nature; Coleman Maxey, a pain-in-the-butt redneck troublemaker, and an assortment of other town characters who are either enthralled by Lottie or unnerved by her. There is also the strangest alliance of carnival bad guys ever to appear in a Kay novel: a one-armed giant and a midget. Lottie's story takes place in early 1900's Georgia and Kentucky, when it was still the train that took people to faraway places. It, too, could be considered a character in this story, as could the town of Jerico, which sounds a lot like long ago Royston, Georgia, just as Milo Wade sounds a lot like the baseball great Ty Cobb. Two great contemporary Southern writers are Terry Kay and Pat Conroy. It struck me, while reading this book, that the two men are interesting contrasts, especially regarding the way they write about the South. It reminds me of two men I once heard trying to describe the taste of a persimmon. Both liked the taste, but one said it was bitter, with a little sweet in it; the other said it was more sweet than bitter. For bittersweet stories about the South, it's hard to beat Conroy or Kay. And 'Taking Lottie Home' is a sweet story, with just the right amount of bitter. It's the kind of story that stays with you for a long, long time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been a long time Terry Kay fan and Taking Lottie Home is right up at the top! A good book for all! Great Christmas Gift for a reader. (Mom don't read this!)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Terry Kay, author of To Dance With the White Dog, Shadow Song, The Runnaway, and others has succeeded in creating a story rich in characters and strongly appealing. Lottie grabs you at the beginning with her simple but complex qualities and never lets go even when the last word is absorbed. You feel what she feels, you travel with her and you worry about how it is going to end. You experience the joys and disappointments of the characters, especially Lottie, and marvel at the complexity and the depth of the story. If you like a love story that evokes emotion, thrives on contrasts and makes you wonder, laugh and cry, then don't miss this one!