No Other Tale to Tell Essay - Critical Essays

Richard Perry

No Other Tale to Tell

Like his fine, underappreciated earlier novel MONTGOMERY’S CHILDREN (1984), Richard Perry’s NO OTHER TALE TO TELL explores the lives and stories (the stories they live, the stories they tell, the stories they are in danger of forgetting) of the members of an African American community in upstate New York. While setting his novels in real places, and placing them in recognizable historical contexts, Perry deliberately and provocatively blurs the line between the factual and the fabulous, in the manner of magic realism. In the odd powers they discover in themselves and in their odd reactions to such discoveries, Perry’s actors and their actions often take readers by surprise, but his art is that the surprising is made convincing.

The city of Kingston’s black community lives in expectations created by a prophecy. They have been told to regard themselves as God’s other chosen people. When it seems as though the prophecy may be fulfilled, however, there is only catastrophe and, in its wake, a disappointment that shakes the community’s power to tell its story.

At the center of the narrative is the March family, including Max, the white foundling whose power as a preacher, first revealed when he is only five years old, leads some to see in him the promised child of God. His tangled, finally explosive relationship with Clara, the daughter of the Marches and the protagonist of the novel, leads to the catastrophe at the heart of the novel.

Complex in its narrative, rich in its characterizations, and compelling in its texture, NO OTHER TALE TO TELL is a novel about storytelling that is itself a model of the storyteller’s art.

Sources for Further Study

Kirkus Reviews. LXII, April 15, 1994, p. 501.

Library Journal. CXIX, May 15, 1994, p. 100.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIX, August 28, 1994, p. 17.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, May 2, 1994, p. 285.