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From a new literary star and acclaimed author of Pawpaw Patch, Necessary Lies and Dark of the Moon comes the haunting and poignant novel of a family in crisis, set in the backwoods of Georgia.
Meet the Scurvy family, an impoverished clan who are the scourge of their small white-trash community. Mother has died in childbirth, leaving behind her newborn and four uneducated children. Father, a toothless and slothful man, cannot muster the money for her funeral. Their 15-year-old daughter, the only girl among three brothers, realizes that the newborn infant is now hers to raise; something that will finally put meaning into her life. And the brothers find themselves enlisted by the town's corrupt bigwig to run moonshine -- a risky venture, but the only way they'll be able to earn the money to bury their mother.
Written in a powerful voice unique to Daugharty, Earl in the Yellow Shirt is narrated in alternating chapters by each of the main characters, their voices corning to the story with different nuances of hope and despair. It is a compelling work that solidifies Daugharty's versatile storytelling talents.
Echoes of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying reverberate in this many-voiced tale about a poor Southern family's efforts to bury their mother decently. Daugharty (Pawpaw Patch) gets off to a scattered start but pulls her narrative together with the help of some startling language. The aptly named Scurvys are dirt poor, without pull or respectability, though they've lived in South Georgia's Swanoochee County as long as anyone can remember. As the novel opens in 1960, Louella Scurvy, mother of four grown children, has just died during the birth of a fifth child, a daughter. With no money and no hope of acquiring it, Lay Scurvy, the "old man," leaves the business of the funeral to his three sons, whose only way to raise the necessary cash is to "run shine" for Buster, a sleazy small-town power broker and bootlegger. Loujean, their school-age sister, takes over the care of the baby. Daugharty tells her story in the voices of the five remaining Scurvys and of Loujean's suitor, Earl, who becomes a kind of hero when Louella at last gets a proper funeral. Early on, Daugharty struggles at the delicate business of establishing six different voices. She employs dialect unevenly and often force-feeds too much background information. But she hits her stride as she zeros in on Alamand, who's the slowest of the Scurvy boys but an artist; the broken and fearful Lay, who sinks low before he gains his integrity; and thoughtful, hardworking Loujean, whose keen eye, subtle irony, heart and extraordinary sweetness give this novel lift. Author tour; U.K., translation, first serial, dramatic rights: Don Congdon. FYI: HarperPerennial will publish a trade paperback edition of Pawpaw Patch to coincide with the publication of Earl in the Yellow Shirt.