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The Rapture of Canaan

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About the Author

Sheri Reynolds was born in rural South Carolina and now lives in Virginia. She has taught English at Virginia Commonwealth University, Old Dominion University, and The College of William and Mary. She is at work on a new novel.


For Ninah Huff, being different from most people has meant being saved. Growing up in her grandfather's penitential religious commune in the rural South, Ninah is surrounded by love and the assurance of sanctity, though she sometimes wonders if she is truly holy. At 14, she begins to have serious doubts. Are all outsiders really damned? Are long, somber dresses and never-cut hair really necessary? Most of all, how sanctified are the feelings sparking between Ninah and James, her prayer partner in the Church of Fire and Brimstone and God's Almighty Baptizing Wind? With Ninah's pregnancy, questions of faith and sin take on real urgency, leading to tragedy and even a miracle. Ninah relates her story in prose both poetic and page turning; Reynolds lives up to the praise garnered by her first novel, Bitterroot Landing (LJ 11/15/94).-Starr E. Smith, Marymount Univ. Lib., Arlington, Va.

In this gritty portrait of a young girl who battles repression in a rural Southern religious community, Reynolds (Bitterroot Landing) once again showcases a compelling narrative voice that's simultaneously harsh and lyrical. The narrator is Ninah Huff, granddaughter of Herman Langston, the founder of a Pentecostal sect in rural South Carolina. Herman is a strict disciplinarian, to say the least: he forces one congregant found guilty of drinking to sleep in an open grave. Because of the Pentecostal group's rigid attitudes, Ninah and her peers are frequently scorned and mocked at school. But her real problems start when she becomes pregnant by her prayer partner. Ninah's subsequent rebellion and the tragic aftermath of her tryst threaten to tear the community apart, particularly when the despotic Herman interprets an ordinary, curable birth defect in her infant son, Canaan, as a sign that she has given birth to the new messiah. While many of the issues Reynolds deals with are coming-of-age staples-teen rebellion; the standoff between adolescent expression and religious repression; the morality of the individual vs. the morality of the group-her gift for characterization ultimately transcends the material as Ninah's strength and resilience enable her to move beyond benighted religiosity toward a true and lasting faith. Literary Guild featured alternate selection. (Jan.)

"Truly rapturous." --The New York Times Book Review"Folksy lyricism . . . a colorful supporting cast . . . a fresh story. As they say in church, 'Hallelujah.'" --Los Angeles Times Book Review "Powerful." --Atlanta Journal & Constitution "Assured . . . devastating." --Booklist "The story compels . . . Reynolds has an imagination that takes the reader into what feels like the world of a teen-age girl trying to make her peace with the world and with god." --Richmond Style Weekly "The newest and most exciting voice to emerge in contemporary Southern fiction." --San Francisco Bay Guardian

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