Julia (Mood) Peterkin John R. Chamberlain - Essay

John R. Chamberlain

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Scarlet Sister Mary"] all but cries with color, scent, sound. It has the rich fragrance of a hot candied yam. Mrs. Peterkin rings all the changes of season and weather to build up the world of Scarlet Sister Mary, and she does it in a style that is a happy combination of solidity, brilliance and pure beauty. Sometimes her story sags with too much beauty, but to err in that manner is superhuman and quite easily forgiven.

So real, so arresting to the five senses, is the sub-tropical world of the Blue Brook plantation—a fruitful sector in the sea-island country of the South Carolina lowlands—that Mary's lusty, fertile habit of taking up with any man who suits her fancy seems native to a place where "the earth's richness and the sun's warmth make living an easy thing." This black incarnation of the goddess of fertility is jilted by her lawful husband [July], but she remains even-up with life by filling her house with children, the only two of which by the same man happen to be twins.

As was the case in "Black April," this book is crammed with the doings and superstitions of the Gullah folk…. Here, in her second novel, Mrs. Peterkin relates everything to the central character; she has made her story more intense by a process of narrowing down.

Mary's character is simple and elemental. It takes color from the world about her….

What impresses one about Mary is her direct...

(The entire section is 401 words.)