Much of Douglas’s strength lies in her characterization. She does well writing a first-person account from a male point of view and her skillfully crafted Alan McLaurin grows from a naive, idealistic youth into a cynical, worldly man. He becomes a metaphor, in some ways, for so many in his generation whose idealism was fueled by a protest against a war in which they did not believe and a struggle to correct a region’s racial attitudes, which were clearly oppressive. Then his generation grew up to find a morally ambiguous world. He grows up by searching for the real story of the past and matures as he puts together some of the unpleasant aspects of that painful reality. In the final chapter, Alan McLaurin displays a certain confidence and peacefulness—much like the confidence displayed in his new South as it, too, emerges from a trial by baptism and fire.
Douglas’s other characters all exhibit originality. She avoids cliched Southern characters but still represents all aspects of the South about which she writes. For example, the free-spirited Aunt Leila puts love and compassion ahead of community mores, but she is still a Southerner. She loves Sam Daniels; his being black does not matter.
Dallas Boykin represents the confused, poor Southerner. After fighting for his country in Vietnam and against racial equality in the South, he emerges at the end of the 1970’s confused and quietly angry. Feeling guilty for his transgressions, he...
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