Claybourne, Georgia, is located between the healing salt marshes and a threatening nuclear power plant. Balancing these two extremes is the healing of Velma Henry, a worker in the plant and a central figure in the community. After trying too hard to balance the world on her own shoulders, Velma attempted suicide.
The plot and present of the novel lasts only the time it takes for Minnie Ransom to initiate Velma’s self-healing, but time and space expand concentrically as the fable of Claybourne revises and updates that of the Garden of Eden. This fable reminds the reader that Adam’s name means “clay” and that clay is a marriage of earth and water. Even the salt water of tears can hold human “dust” together to provide clay for the “Potter’s wheel,” the unifying symbol of the novel.
Claybourne itself is the potter’s wheel that remolds and recenters individual lives, a united African American community dissolving differences in the shared grief and hopes of its “salt of the earth” members. Community centers unite the otherwise divided efforts of its citizens in healing confrontations that reveal their essential fellowship. The Infirmary offers both modern medicine and spiritual healing. While the larger society favors practical sciences, The Academy of the Seven Arts teaches only arts—performance, martial, medical, scientific, spiritual, fine, and human— reminding people that learning is the art of living. It is attended...
(The entire section is 556 words.)