By Miles DeMott
Word Truck Books, 2010
Reviewed by Julia Oliver
This enterprising first-time novelist has created an intriguing, imaginative saga with characters some readers in Montgomery, Alabama, where the author holds forth, may think they recognize. DeMott says they don’t, though; it’s all fiction.
The setting is Charleston, South Carolina. Members of a prominent, old-line family have assembled at the patriarchal estate to sell Plantation Trust, the bank that has provided four generations of Cambers with prestige, power, and material comforts. During this convening, old secrets come to light, and the plot has provocative twists. Told from several perspectives, the narrative often reflects subtle, wry humor, such as the following:
[Tony] had never been to the South, and didn’t feel the lesser for it.... He [Walker, a Baptist preacher] paused indelicately over the portion of her uniform that should have included a name tag.... Margaret found that she lived in a Charleston of about 250 people, and she saw the same people over and over again; they seemed only to change clothes.... It happened across the street from the little diner with the killer cheeseburger.... The waiting room at Medical Center Hospital looked like a cross between an erector set and a fishbowl.
Although the term "dysfunctional family" is overused in reviews, the creative technique can enhance dialogue, tension, and character development. It’s a good fit here.
Miles DeMott has lived up to his pseudonymous-sounding name by going the extra miles to get this prodigious literary effort into print. (The name is real.) It’s refreshing to observe a talented, ambitious fiction writer own up to being his own publisher and the originator of tongue-in-cheek blurbs for the book jacket. He is also the star and director of a very well-done promotional video—check it out at familymeetingnovel.com—that features the book’s title on the marquee of Montgomery’s retro movie house, the Capri Theatre, which is next door to the city’s premier art gallery. Nov 2010
Julia Oliver’s current project is a play, Juliette’s Journey.