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A vivid, moving portrait of love in all its facets, this luminous story will linger long in readers' hearts.
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.
Posted November 1, 2006
THIS NOVEL OF THE INTERACTIONS AND LIFE EVENTS AND LOVES OF EARLY 20TH CENTURY GEORGIANS IS WITHOUT EQUAL. I COULD NOT LAY IT DOWN YET DID NOT WANT IT TO END. IT IS SUPERB.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 21, 2000
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 22, 2000
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!)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 19, 2000
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!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.