I’ve read three first novels by Abilene writers in recent months, and I enjoyed—and heartily recommend—all three.
The Arms of God by Leslie Hammond is a well-written, upbeat novel filled with characters you can’t help but like. The title refers to the Brazos River, which flows through the West Texas tale, and focuses on the life of a hard-working young man, Trace Clement, who is embraced by the community after his mother kills his father when he is just eight years old. Trace is entrusted to the care of Mr. Franklin, owner of the local machine-and-tool shop and one of the most respected men in town. From a distance (always from a distance) Trace’s wealthy grandfather, Fowler Clement, keeps tabs on the youngster without his knowing it.
Lisa McKinnon has published what I would call an autobiographical novel, I’ll Tell the Moon, focusing on adventures, events, and people from her childhood in Littlefield, Texas. The Birdie character in the book is basically Lisa. The story revolves around Birdie, her brother, Sam, and her best friend, Caroline, as well as Birdie’s grandmother, mother, and sometimes abusive father, who is especially rough on Sam, a slow reader. Most of the tales are set in Littlefield in 1967, with the last few chapters taking place in 1975 and 2013. Folks who grew up in small towns, especially in that era, should easily identify with the mischievous brother and sister duo.
Wes Gorman’s hefty novel, The Last Homecoming, which he calls a “Texas Gothic Tale,” is set on a fictional family ranch near Abilene. I have to say that I was a little intimidated by the 537-page tome until I started reading it. Right away I was hooked, and I finished it in two days!
Best-selling novelist and creative writing professor Sean O’Bryan, who is going through a divorce soon after his father’s death, is invited to visit his eighty-year-old Uncle Emmet on the O’Bryan ranch. Immediately he feels at home and decides to stay awhile. But he soon encounters some very strange things occurring at the ranch—weird dreams, a ghostly soldier figure, ringing telephones that no one can find. And all of them seem to involve family secrets his uncle is reluctant to share. The novel is an upbeat tale of love, family, and friendship, but it also has an overriding supernatural element.
All three of the new novels have one thing in common: the church has an important place in the stories – the Church of Christ in Hammond’s, the Methodist Church in McKinnon’s, and a non-denominational tabernacle in Gorman’s.
Autographed copies of these books are available through TexasStarTrading.com.
Glenn Dromgoole retired his Texas Reads column earlier this year. He and his wife Carol operate Texas Star Trading Company in Abilene.