Seashells, Gator Bones, and the Church of Everlasting Liability by Susan Adger
From the scraps of paper found in an old, Great Depression Floridian town called Toad Springs, Susan Adger weaves the tales of the town’s inhabitants throughout the years. From the new Preacher with a questionable past to the rocky father-son relationship of Landis and Wilton and the unfortunate secret shared between them, Adger shows what makes this town quintessentially Florida, from the characters’ happy sunshine in their successes to the bitter sadness residing in the swamps of their darkest days.
Top of the Pile, 8 out of 10. Definitely give this book a strong consideration. The prose is beautiful, the stories are entertaining, and there is just something special about a Florida town where strawberries, scandal, salvation, and fertilizer recipes can all come together in one book.
Seashells is full of the quiet dignity of the ordinary. It revels its simplicity, and its simplicity is alluring. Seashells makes its characters so human; they are people, just plain people, showing their heart to the reader from the hopes and dreams that Elsie Lou has of a life with Galen to the despair and failure of Gladys Heppner to ever fit in. The book is written with a Southern dialect, and though that frustrated me in the first few pages, I was quickly drawn into the stories themselves, as it just felt right.
What I also liked a lot was how an incident glossed over in a previous story would become clarified in, and sometimes even become the central focus, of the next story– in all, Seashells is composed of 14 such interrelated stories. There are some tales that are downright funny like what happens to Iona’s hair in The Beauty Shop at Carrie June’s, and others tales that often ended up being unexpectedly sad like that of childhood friends Rusty and Worthy. The tales shifted between humor and sarcasm, and tragedy and happiness–interwoven between religion, marriage and family, they compile a pleasant mix of what life is and can be for a plethora of people and situations in this town, and I loved the homely feeling of completeness that it brought me.
Sometimes I felt like the sense of time through which the story was told was a little skewed and confusing, and I would have liked to have had a list of the characters and who was related to whom, friends with whom, and so forth. It could be a little hard at times to get the full impact and meaning of one story if I forgot what that same character had done in a different prior story beforehand. Also, the prologue and epilogue felt a little forced as they tried to give the stories a context from a future person’s perspective that the stories didn’t really need. And finally, as with most short story books, some stories were certainly more compelling than others, and there were a few stories (most notably Sorrie May’s) where I was disappointed in how little I learned about the characters involved.
*Please note that this is an honest review and that I received an ARC copy to write it.