Prodigals: A Novel
University of Tennessee Press, 2002
Paper: 978-1-57233-938-5 | Cloth: 978-1-57233-189-1
Library of Congress Classification PS3616.O88P76 2002
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.6
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ABOUT THIS BOOK
“A haunting, evocative novel. In Prodigals, Mark Powell depicts a lost American landscape—the small towns and logging camps of the South during World War II, with their subculture of fugitives and transients. I can't get the desperate hero out of my mind.” —Cary Holladay, author of Mercury
In the late summer of 1944, fifteen-year-old Ernest Cobb flees into the dense forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Behind him, in his South Carolina hometown, the girl he thought he had impregnated is being buried. Her shooting death was not Ernest’s doing, but Ernest fears that he will be implicated in it anyway. With little sense of where he is going or how he might survive, the boy makes his way northward.
Ernest’s journey brings him into the company of outsiders and drifters—an often violent subculture at the tattered fringes of wartime America. An aging mountain hermit, who was once a glassblower, rescues Ernest from the wilderness and nurtures him for a while. Eventually, Ernest finds himself in Asheville, North Carolina, where he goes to work as a dishwasher and rents a dingy room that he soon shares with a new girlfriend. When that relationship falters, Ernest accompanies an amiable but reckless friend, a boy called June Bug, to work at a logging camp. There they meet Jimmy Morgan, a wounded war veteran with his own dark secret. The convergence of these lost souls and their chance discovery of an injured child lead to further tragedy. By the end, the once-naive Ernest has begun to comprehend the gaping loneliness that defines much of human existence, but he has also come to sense the possibility of transcendence in the fleeting connections born of love.
With Prodigals, Mark Powell makes an impressive fiction debut. The author’s keen ear for dialogue, his understanding of character and motive, and his lean, taut language will make this novel linger long in the minds of readers.
The Author: Mark Powell lives in Mountain Rest, South Carolina. He studied creative writing at the University of South Carolina.
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