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"In the Fall" by Jeffrey Lent

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Powerful, sweeping, epic, gripping, brutally honest - these things and more describe Jeffrey Lent's debut novel, "In the Fall."

We meet one of the key players, a monster named Lex Mebane, quite late in the book. He owns and tries to rape a young slave woman, Leah, during the Civil War. She happens to be his half-sister and about the same age as he. She crowns him with a frying pan, leaves him in a heap, escapes North Carolina, and reaches Vermont in the company of a returning veteran named Norman Pelham. This book captures the outrage that the marriage of the two engenders.
The grandson of this union, Foster Pelham, is sixteen at the conclusion of this story, and travels from Vermont with his girlfriend to North Carolina to try to discover what happened. He finds Lex alive and unrepentant, but unable to control his desire to tell Foster the story. He does so and wants Foster to deliver some kind of retribution. Foster declines, preferring to leave him there with his memory and debilitating guilt.

The characters in this novel act from real and understandable motives; they not only engage us, they make us live our lives alongside them. This book's length and epic subject exhausted and exhilarated me. It is stunning, weighty, vivid, and rewarding. It's quite perfectly unbelievable that this is Lent's first book.

Take it up! Take it up!
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