Originally published in The New Yorker in 1954, The Ponder Heart is easily Eudora Welty’s most comic novel, a lighthearted burlesque that rivals Caldwell’s Tobacco Road for capturing rural idioms, and the novels of Mark Twain for high farce. Edna Earle, a person of large distinction in Clay County, and the talkative owner of the Beulah Hotel, tells the story of her Uncle Daniel Ponder, a local hero whose over-affection for society compels him to give everything he owns away. The disappearance of Uncle Daniel’s second wife, the waifish and willowy Bonnie Dee Peacock, leads to his arrest for murder. The trial, which comprises the second half of the novel, is a masterpiece of courtroom anarchy. A cast of Dickensian characters coupled with Edna’s hysterically accurate observations of small-town life, transport the reader, like a raucous family drive, to a truly original conclusion.
An Exceptional Performance of Welty's Text
The insights of the author are comical and satiric at just the right moments. Welty's portraits are simultaneously so insightful and satisfying that you don't want to interrupt the natural flow of the supper table tale (the actual description here didn't resonate after I completed the audiobook).
Welty's text is so well-drawn by Sally Darling that I cannot imagine another person reading Welty aloud after listening to this reading. The combination of Welty's text and Darling's inflection weave a spell - it is simply a treasure.