Josephine Humphreys is the author of Dreams of Sleep, which won the 1985 Hemingway Foundation Award for a first work of fiction; of Rich in Love, made into a major motion picture; and of The Fireman's Fair (all available from Penguin).
Humphreys (Rich in Love) sets her new novel in the swamps of North Carolina at the end of the Civil War and pervades it with mystery. The location, Scuffletown, is itself uncertain: both large and vague (even the postmaster can't locate it precisely, and lost would-be visitors simply give up), Scuffletown is home to people who don't want to be found (outlaws, escaped slaves, Rebel stragglers, Union prison-camp escapees) and people others don't choose to find (the Lumbee Indians, about whom this book has much to say and about whom the reader will probably know little if anything). The narrator, Rhoda, is Lumbee, the action is episodic, and quaint local color is less the order of the day than violence and turmoilDthe by-product of an uncertain terrain where neither Union marauders nor Confederate conscriptors are trustworthy. There's also a love story involving the narrator and one of the local heroes, and, as one might guess, it's not a simple one. The writing is superb. Highly recommended for mid-sized and large collections.DRobert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
A tragic accident causes a young woman to question her faith in this cross-cultural Christian love story. Leah Travers is devastated when her husband and their two-year-old son die in an accident caused by drunk driver Manuel Garcia. Although her domineering parents urge her to move back to Houston, Leah stays in Fort Worth. She finds an apartment she can afford and takes a job in publishing, working for the first time since college. But she has no friends, and she falls away from the church, tormented by the unanswerable question of why her loved ones died while Manuel walked away from the accident. Leah takes to driving around Manuel's neighborhood; though he is in prison, his pregnant wife, five kids and brother-in-law, Jacobo Martinez, still live in Fort Worth. On one such trip, Leah encounters Jacobo, who has dropped out of law school to care for his sister and her kids. Leah and Jacobo begin to meet for coffee and meals, and Jacobo takes her to his warm and welcoming nondenominational church. Just as Leah finds herself falling in love with the younger, motorcycle-riding Jacobo, readers will fall for this fast-paced romance, empathizing with Leah as she grieves and heals, cheering for Jacobo as he woos her. (Sept.) NOWHERE ELSE ON EARTH Josephine Humphreys. Viking, $24.95 (320p) ISBN 0-670-89176-2 ~ While Humphreys has been justly praised as a writer with her fingers on the pulse of Southern culture, she surpasses even her previous novels (Dreams of Sleep; The Fireman's Fair; etc.) in this spellbinding story of a largely forgotten remnant of Indians caught between opposing sides during the Civil War. Scuffletown, on the banks of North Carolina's Lumbee River, is home to the mixed-blood descendants of the original Indians in the area, desperately poor but hardworking families who eke out a living in the arduous turpentining trade. Other nearby residents are "the macks"ÄScots planters who hold the money and power, and own black slaves. During the last months of the Civil War, the lawless Home Guard, led by sadistic Brant Harris, conscripts boys from Scuffletown into forced labor building Confederate fortifications. Teenage narrator Rhoda Strong, daughter of a Scots father and a Lumbee Indian mother, relates the circumstances that lead her brothers to join renegade Henry Berry Lowrie, charismatic scion of Scuffletown's most respected family, in hiding out and defying Harris and his henchmen. In a narrative layered with indelibly memorable scenes, Humphreys depicts the moral ambiguities that beset Scuffletown's residents and the ironies of their precarious position; the sympathies of many are with the Yankees, yet they endure the depredations of Union troops as well as of marauding Confederates. The major irony, however, lies in Henry Lowrie's fate. Pursued by the profiteering hoodlums he has thwarted, Henry eventually becomes a thief in order to survive, and in time, an outlaw hunted for murder. He is arrested in the midst of his wedding to Rhoda, whose coming-of-age is the frame on which the novel rests. Humphreys constructs her intricately wrought plot with understated eloquence, and she breathes life into the landscape of this piney, swampy rural area. Each of a large cast of splendidly realized characters is informed by her understanding of the subtleties of human relationships when race is a factor. Most impressively, she illuminates a largely unknown facet of the Civil War, finding universal resonances in the suffering and quiet heroism of a beleaguered remnant of marginalized Americans. In its historically accurate delineations of the violence, greed and betrayal engendered by internecine conflict, and of corresponding bravery, sacrifice and heartbreak, this novel makes a powerful statement. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
"Humphreys has always been a master of telling a larger story
through a deceptively intimate narrative, and Rhoda's tale, with
its clear, distinct voice, is no exception." The New Yorker"A novel
so compelling works a kind of magic, casting a spell. . . . She has
distilled to a splendid coherence the complexities of history and
the human heart." -The Washington Post"With fluid writing,
nuanced characters, and a suspenseful pace, Humphreys blends
historical romance with a meditation on the ambiguities of race and
morality." -Time"Josephine Humphreys has always been a very, very,
good novelist...with Nowhere Else on Earth...[she] has taken a
quantum leap-from very, very, good to extraordinary." -The San
Diego Union-Tribune"Though I loved her three previous novels,
Nowhere Else on Earth ... the narrator, Rhoda Strong, belongs to
the ages, a fabulous creation." Pat Conroy