Southern Gothic Novel To Be Released In March

Posted: February 25, 2019 in World On The Edge

Finalist: William Faulkner/William Wisdom Competition.

Finalist: Tuscany Prize for Fiction

The Distance Between High and Low is a novel about the consequences for two siblings who have never known the identity of their father.

Teenaged twins, Lizzie and Peck live in the house of their widowed grandmother Pearl–a house of history and secrets– along with their unstable, drug-addicted, artist mother, Lila, and Izear, a half-Cherokee Indian devoted to Pearl who took him into her house many years before.

Peck is a somber boy who sees a symbol of his father in an elusive Osprey which he tries to capture. Lizzie’s disposition is much lighter. She is very protective of Peck and quick to judge anyone who might harm him.

Next door to the old house are the neighbors. On one side is Hobart, who himself was fatherless, and as child, was virtually kept in a cardboard box by his mother, until he was adopted and brought to Highlow craving to belong in a town that did not accept him.

On the other side of Pearl’s house, is Little Benedict with his own dysfunctional parents–his socially conscious mother, his father who doesn’t want to rock the boat so goes along with his wife, and Little Sister, who is finally brought home from the institution where she was born and has lived most of her life. It is Little Sister’s innocence that makes her the genuine truthteller in the novel.

What most of Highlow wants is what Pearl already is: the epitome of old Highlow blood. But Pearl has dark secrets, too, known only by her first cousin, THE JUDGE–who takes notes on most everyone in Highlow, because The Judge is responsible for conclusions, so he needs to keep track of the circumstances leading up to them. 

When a tragic automobile accident claims her beloved Peck’s life, Lizzie’s sunny disposition sours to spitefulness against Hobart, who was driving the car. She vows to leave Highlow to find the father she and Peck never knew. Yet, when she does, it ends in misery.  Marrying a young doctor to get away from home doesn’t help either–her new husband is unfaithful, and Lizzie’s tendency toward revenge grows even larger–until something even more drastic happens. Personal guilt over the event takes Lizzie back home to Pearl’s house for reparation. There, she finally learns her father’s surprising identity, as well as the consequence he will have to pay.

Ultimately, this novel reveals the undeniable importance of fathers to a family. Over the years, there have been many published studies on the importance of fathers. Without a father a child is much more likely to engage in activities that are abusive or harmful. In an article entitled The Plight of Fatherless Children from the following discoveries were noted of children without fathers:

•Sixty-three percent of young people who commit suicide are from fatherless homes.
•Eighty-five percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders are from fatherless homes.
•Eighty percent of rapists are from fatherless homes.
•Seventy-one percent of high school dropouts are from fatherless homes.
•Seventy-five percent of all adolescent patients in chemical-abuse centers are from fatherless homes.
•Seventy percent of juveniles in state operated institutions come from fatherless homes.
•Eighty-five percent of youth in prison are from fatherless homes.
•Seventy percent of pregnant teens are from fatherless homes.

These are startling statistics–and yet, there is hope and redemption, as there is in my novel. Read the following quote from Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners–in southern jargon, of course.

Every person that comes into this earth … is born sweet and full of love. A little child loves ever’body, friends, and its nature is sweetness — until something happens. Something happens, friends, I don’t need to tell people like you that can think for theirselves. As that little child gets bigger, its sweetness don’t show so much, cares and troubles come to perplext it, and all its sweetness is driven inside it. Then it gets miserable and lonesome and sick, friends. It says, ‘Where is all my sweetness gone? Where are all the friends that loved me?’ and all the time, that little beat-up rose of its sweetness is inside, not a petal dropped.

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