Author: Oscar Patton
Author: Oscar Patton
Southern fiction is a genre that is rich with elements worth reading. Oscar Patton has made good use of these elements to weave a tale that holds the reader’s interest throughout.
The protagonist, Ada McCallum, is a Southern belle at heart. But when she’s left a widow, she proves to have more mettle than expected. Set around the time of WWI, the story begins with the death of Ada McCallum’s husband, Hiram, and baby son, in a small town in Georgia. In her widowhood, Ada attracts many admirers, including the narrator, newspaper man Carl Goodman, but Carl loses out to Jack Stovall, the lawyer for the deceased’s estate. Jack attempts to prove his courage by enlisting in the war; he returns with haunting emotional remnants of his time there.
Meanwhile, Ada has been flexing her new-found muscle as a businesswoman, taking the reins of her late husband’s empire. She’s accruing property right and left, not always showing compassion the way Hiram often did. She also has a romantic dalliance that, when discovered, shatters Jack. This tragedy proves to be the greatest of heartaches for Ada, and it’s after this that she becomes a recluse.
Patton links Indian lore and ghost stories, long-forgotten tragedies, with the troubles that Ada endures. He fictionalizes a true story from the Creek War of 1813-1814 to provide the backdrop for some of the ghostly happenings in Ada’s house. His recounting of the circumstances renders the ghostly apparitions believable.
The story also references the racial tensions in Georgia during that time, the Klan figuring prominently. Although he uses several of these motifs a reader comes to expect in this type of regional history, Patton doesn’t overwork them. He has a skillful way with the plot, leaving tantalizing clues that are filled in gradually.
Recounting a family saga within a small-town history requires the introduction of many characters. This is where I did have trouble keeping up with the author. There were a lot of names to sort out, and some characters seemed extraneous, particularly that of Buford, yet another tragic figure in Ada’s circle.
I think Patton set out to
write a Southern tragedy and he is successful at doing so. It’s the
type of story to get caught up in on a rainy day. This book is
supposed to be the first part of a trilogy. It provides a substantial
basis for more tales, and it will be interesting to see what else
happens in Satilla County.