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by: Larry Brown

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(Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)

Trouble finds Fay Jones wherever she goes. Fay leaves her north Mississippi home on foot with two dollars, rotting tennis shoes, a half-pack of cigarettes and a serious survival instinct. Fay meets various men throughout the book who all pay a severe price for making her acquaintance. The story takes place in 1985 mostly around seedy establishments in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Larry Brown's other novels include Dirty Work (1989), Joe (1991), Father and Son (1996), Fay (2000) and The Rabbit Factory (2003). In 1990, Brown published a collection of short stories called Big Bad Love. An unfinished novel of Brown's--Miracle of Catfish-- was published posthumously in 2007. Brown's dedication in Fay reads: "For my uncle in all ways but blood:Harry Crews."

Fay contains Brown's trademark stark prose that lingers in the mind long after the lines are read. This story evokes sad hard truths that exist in everyone's life. The real hero of this story is Sam, the cop who finds Fay walking by the side of the road. Sam lost his daughter, wife, girlfriend and Fay in the course of this unforgettable tale. Brown writes on page 431 of the haunting loneliness of memory:

"Sam started taking drives in the afternoons. He'd go up to the store and get some gas and maybe a six-pack and a bag of pig skins. A fresh pack of smokes. He'd ride down to Enid and look at the water and then pull around on the south side of the spillway and watch to see if the people were catching anything.

"He was careful about drinking on the road. He knew you had to give a police officer a reason to stop you. Or just be in the wrong place at the wrong time and have to drink through a roadblock.

"He listened to music on his truck radio without really hearing it, his ears ignoring the songs for the things that lay like a stone in the mind. She was so young. She was so much younger than him. People would have mistaken her for his daughter, their child for his grandchild. By the time Fay was thirty he'd be an old man almost.

"And so he worked his way around to start thinking that she might be better off without him, maybe, just in case he never did see her again. But then he knew forgetting her would go on forever and never die. Even when he lay dying he'd think of her and wonder what had ever happaned to that family of hers, thes ones she'd told him about who had lived in those woods..."

Fay counts as a story you won't forget.

James Calemine

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Mystery and Manners,


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