Thursday, December 22, 2016
"No Place To Pray" by James Carpenter - A Southern Gothic Tale of Racism, Alcoholism and Oppression
Wharton professor James Carpenter has penned a novel that describes a world that is far removed from the University of Pennsylvania campus. This dark tale treats issues of class, race, alcoholism and the nature of friendship.Leroy and Harmon met while they were locked up together, and forged a friendship that bridged racial divides. Harmon is white and Leoy is bi-racial. Like Huck and Jim, they end up on a river that leads them to a new life, struggling to earn their livelihood in an oppressive mill.
The setting and the action of this story takes the reader through a journey of the underbelly of America, where alcohol, lies and and half-truths obscure the true nature of the world for both protagonists. They both end up befriending and bedding a rich widow by the name of Edna, and this menage a trois does to end well.
The novel is a Southern gothic tale, evoking echoes of both Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." While Harmon and LeRoy live hard lives, made harder by some of the choices they made, their moments of joy and true friendship serve as grace notes to a tale otherwise told in a minor key.