Hub City Press 1/1/2012. New paperback. Winner of the SC First Novel Prize.
A current of guilt and repression flows beneath the placid surface of respectability of a Virginia Eastern Shore town. In the year after his mother's death, 16-year-old Isaac faces not only his coming of age but also the mysteries of a twisted communal past.
A summer job at Chum's Hardware introduces Isaac to Crazy Eddie, an acerbic 77-year-old who is outspoken about everything except the string of bizarre vandalisms pulling down big headlines in the weekly newspaper. Someone is flooding the houses of Rooksville's leading citizens and leaving a signature of painted flames on the walls. The self-righteous vigilantes who gather at the hardware store offer a $5,000 reward for the conviction of whoever is responsible and they have their eyes on Isaac.
Isaac quickly discovers that small towns in which everybody knows everybody else's business often hide the most vicious secrets. A lost ledger at Chum's and the rantings of the town's recluse about the Klan are the first clues to the rumors that swirl like dust motes at the hardware store. By laying bare the stains of history and facing down the town's hatemonger, Isaac resolves where he belongs in the world.
In this quietly suspenseful story with splashes of manic humor, the eccentrics, the outcasts, the bigots, and the bores join the small-town human parade. Mercy Creek, winner of the 2011 South Carolina First Novel Prize, is a memorable work by a new voice that deserves to be heard.