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Columbia College Chicago

Reviews: Associate Professor, Eric May's BEDROCK FAITH

Here's what Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews had to say about Eric May's BEDROCK FAITH:

November 15, 2013 |
Library Journal

In this debut novel, May creates a middle-class African American neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, named Parkland, where residents are mainly older and have lived in the community since the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Despite the area’s beauty, the neighborhood had once been terrorized by the young Gerald “Stew Pot” Reeves. He burned Mrs. Motley’s garage, butchered a neighbor’s cat, and terrorized others with his massive pit bull, Hitler. After Stew Pot is arrested for the rape of a white woman, Parkland returns to its quiet routine. When Stew Pot is released from prison at 31, he returns to Parkland and intimidates the people again, only this time as a Bible-thumping moral policeman who outs one neighbor and causes the death of another.

VERDICT May slowly builds suspense as he persuasively unfolds the narrative in this work that reads like an Agatha Christie mystery. The characters, even those whose names are never mentioned, are versatile and relatable, and May’s descriptions embody a tapestry of words. Like Ronald M. Gauthier’s Crescent City Countdown, this story will appeal to readers of thrillers and African American fiction.

 

November 15, 2013 | Kirkus Reviews

In this debut, May walks the streets of Parkland on Chicago’s South Side, exploring race, community and religion.

May writes of a town settled by African-Americans fleeing Jim Crow’s South. 1990s Parkland is a stable, middle-class community, with hardworking families long acquainted, each house known to all; redbrick two-flats, large wooden foursquares. May writes of Mrs. Motley, a retired school librarian and insurance agent’s widow, with a son in the Army, stationed at Fort Sill; Mr. Davenport, a teacher and block-club president; Erma Smedley, divorced, beautiful enough that “the men perked up,” who is hiding a secret; the Powells and Hicks; and 1960s radical Mrs. Butler, raising grandson Reggie. The familiar tranquility is fractured by Gerald “Stew Pot” Reeves, still young after nearly half a lifetime of imprisonment. Under the prison tutelage of Brother Crown, Stew Pot’s seen “The Light,” and he’s intent on exposing the devil in Parkland. Stew Pot’s witnessing soon flames into jeremiads, and as he exposes hidden transgressions, Parkland’s perception of him changes “from the weird-but-harmless category to the crazy-dangerous-hot-list.” Stew Pot discovers Erma is a “lesbianite.” Erma’s shamed and flees. Stew Pot drives the Davenports away and then frightens Mrs. Hicks, who later dies after collapsing from heatstroke. May writes with meticulous detail, seemingly tedious in listing clothing, houses, shops and churches, but as the complex saga unfolds, his detailed viewpoint lends credence to the humanity of Parkland’s people. Stew Pot’s exposure of secrets causes lifelong friendships to implode, and in a misdirected strike at Stew Pot, Mrs. Motley’s treasured home is burned. With wounded veteran Mr. McTeer and Alderman Vernon Paiger as suitors, May’s Mrs. Motley is a superbly rendered, evolving character and the narrative’s heart: intent on dignified kindness and generosity, on propriety and perspective, yet plagued by unintended consequences and forced to ask herself, “what do you say to the pain of someone who felt horribly wronged by your right?”

A perceptive and entrancing meditation on friendship and family, love and forgiveness.