A stunning literary debut about coming back home again.
Twenty-eight-year-old protagonist Tommy Lee Tyson steps off the Greyhound bus in his hometown of Swamp Creek, Arkansas—a place he left when he was eighteen, vowing never to return. Yet fate and a Ph.D. in black studies force him back to his rural origins as he seeks to understand himself and the black community that produced him.
A cold, nonchalant father and an emotionally indifferent mother make his return, after a ten-year hiatus, practically unbearable, and the discovery of his baby sister's death and her burial in the backyard almost consumes him. His mother watches his agony when he discovers his sister's tombstone, but neither she nor other family members is willing to disclose the secret of her death. Only after being prodded incessantly does his older brother, Willie James, relent and provide Tommy Lee with enough knowledge to figure out exactly what happened and why.
Meanwhile, Tommy's seventy-year-old teacher—lying on her deathbed—asks him to remain in Swamp Creek and assume her position as the headmaster of the one-room schoolhouse. He refuses vehemently and she dies having bequeathed him her five thousand–book collection in the hopes that he will change his mind. Over the course of a one-week visit, riddled with tension, heartache, and revelation, Tommy Lee Tyson discovers truths about his family, his community, and his undeniable connection to rural Southern black folk and their ways.
"A thrilling literary debut...Daniel Black wields a powerful pen, a sharp eye, and muscular prose in giving us a memorable, even haunting story of the ties that bind." -- Michael Eric Dyson
In Black's thoughtful debut about return to and reconciliation with one's roots, Tommy Lee "T.L." Tyson comes home to rural Swamp Creek, Ark., after a 10-year absence. Having fled a life of manual labor and an unloving family for academia, T.L., now with a Ph.D. in black studies, returns seeking "familial clarity" after years of silence. Even stronger than his need to come to terms with his estranged family including his tyrannical father, Cleatis; remote mother, Marion; and older brother, Willie James is his desire to reconnect with his adored younger "Sister," Cynthia Jane. But he arrives home to find Sister dead and buried in the backyard, and no one will tell him how she died. Sister's death isn't the only family secret T.L. will unravel: he also visits his beloved, ailing teacher and mentor, Carolyn Swinton. They're reunited just before she dies, and upon her passing he discovers that he is her biological son. T.L. also finally breaks Willie James's silence and learns the shocking story of Sister's death. Though T.L.'s intellectual sermonizing about identity and overcoming self-hatred brings a self-conscious layer to the novel, Black elevates his promising debut with an ear for dialogue and a specific sense of Southern place.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I absolutely loved this book! Made me gasp a lot
Daniel Black does it again...great literary journey
This author is amazing, brilliant, and moving. This is the 2nd book (Perfect Peace was the 1st) my book club has read by him. He takes you on an emotional journey between reality and make believe.
The character development and descriptions are done with depth and beauty. He gives you such a varying depiction of the black male. I really like that.
I had heard about this book and decided that it would be my treat to read during vacation. This story was so engulfing, I felt like I was on vacation from my vacation. VERY GOOD READ! Can't wait to read Dr.Black's other books!