“There’s salt all over Carolina, salt from tears and blood and the dead.
It’s in every riverbed and blade of grass.”
“The whole South ain’t nothing but a scar with some salt on it.”
1947 – Minister Peters has had nothing short of a tragic life. Thinking that the only way he can move on is to leave South Carolina, he gives away his house and most of his possessions and boards a train north.
“The days moved; I ate my meals alone, and no one spoke to me, the people of the town thinking me either cursed or tragic – both”.
On the train, on a sweltering summer day, he meets an ex-serviceman named Carvall, who fought overseas in WWII. He also meets a married couple, Divinion and Lanah, a mismatched pair. Divinion who is black of skin and eager to obtain employment in the northern steel mills, and Lanah who is of mixed race, and according to the thoughts of Minister is classy. Dressed in lace and pearls, she exudes a sort of superior demeanor.
These four who share a train carriage and a life-altering journey, become almost a family of sorts. They are traveling northwards where they hope to receive some respect and opportunities that they cannot get in the South.
“I wanted to ease into sleep and dream another life until I arrived at a location where I could actually build one.”
As the train travels northwards, it makes several long stops. It is at one of these stops that Minister’s tragic life will take an even more ill-fated turn…
“People rarely understand what others leave behind.”
“There are moments in life when God has nothing to say to us, when there is a deafening silence surrounding our souls, when our lungs squeeze and eardrums still, when there is no air left to move through.”
With prose at times so beautiful it is almost lyrical, Stacy D. Flood’s novella was a privilege to read. The story relates the dark and often disturbing history of the black race in the southern United States. A time when segregation was still enforced and lynchings commonplace.
The description in the book was vibrant; causing the reader to almost feel the intense heat and the sway of the train carriage as it lumbered north.
The protagonist, Minister Peters, was a solitary, melancholic, introspective man. Despite the fact that the story is told via his thoughts and dreams, he seemed to remain unknowable – at a remove from the world. I find it hard to explain… I wanted him to ‘feel’ more, I wanted to feel for him more. He seemed so detached from his own life, almost as though he were observing the tragic events of his own life from a distance.
I find my thoughts are jumbled. I loved the prose, the essential story, the description, yet… Minister Peters remains illusive. All in all, I believe this to be an important work of literary fiction.
3.5 stars rounded up to 4 for Goodreads and Amazon
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Lanternfish Press via Edelweiss.
ASIN : B08SQTZ7FP – 82 pages – ISBN : 9781941360491
Originally from Buffalo, and currently living in Seattle, Stacy D. Flood’s work has been published nationally, and performed on stages nationwide as well as in the Puget Sound Area. He has been a DISQUIET scholar in Lisbon, an artist-in-residence at The Millay Colony of the Arts, and the recipient of a Getty Fellowship to the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.