Thursday, April 17, 2014

Brighten the Corner Where You Are

I adored this book.  Even though I was in deep mourning over leaving Flavia de Luce behind, that didn't keep me from thoroughly enjoying Brighten the Corner Where You Are by Fred Chappell.  The premise of the story is very simple: a day in the life of Joe Robert Kirkman, a schoolteacher who wants to teach about evolution, a philosopher, and a lover of pranks in a 1940s North Carolina mountain town.  The story is recounted by his son.

The tale opens with Joe Robert Kirkman shimmying up a tree at 3 in the morning to catch an opossum. Then he cooks french toast for himself while his family sleeps, breaking every pot and pan in the house and then splattering egg all down the front of his best suit.  We learn that he is going to be questioned by the school board about his beliefs because of his teaching of evolution.  While on his way to school, he sees a child flailing about in a small, fast-flowing creek.  He dives in, expels the water from her lungs, and takes her to the general store, where he changes into an odd collection of clothes that afford him odd looks all day.  The day is filled with many an adventure from ending up stuck in the chimney with a goat on the roof to a drastic interview with the paper.
The Author
One of my next reads.
This story is charming, gently funny, and full of beautiful language.  The writing is some of the best I have read in a long time and Chappell manages to capture post war North Carolina perfectly.  The characters are interesting and quite human, with foibles and funny quirks.  Joe Robert Kirkman is the funniest, quirkiest, most human of them all.  I highly recommend this to pretty much everybody.  Even if you don't have an affinity for southern novels like I do, this is a must read, simply for the beautiful language.  I am also excited because this novel is part of a sort of casual series, all written through Joe Robert Kirkman's son's eyes.  I will definitely be reading them all.

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