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Strangers & Sojourners : Stories from the Lowcountry - Mary Potter Engel

Strangers & Sojourners

Stories from the Lowcountry

Hardcover Published: 21st April 2004
ISBN: 9781582432649
Number Of Pages: 222

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For readers of Allan Gurganus and John Kennedy Toole, stories set in a small Southern town where a young Jewish doctor tries to bring compassion and science to a cast of misfits, loners, and eccentrics. A one-hundred-and-fourteen-year-old woman living alone, a deaf recluse, a Jewish alligator hunter and his New York wife, a gay African-American drummer, a woman accused of poisoning her husband, a homeless, transgendered person, a woman scarred by a dog attack, a Jewish shopkeeper with unfulfilled aspirations, a wife with an AIDS-afflicted husband--these are a few of the characters in these twenty-one linked stories from the diverse and vital rural culture of the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Struggling to wrest meaning from the tragic events of their lives, these characters create unorthodox views of God, the world, and justice, simply as a way to survive. Their stories revolve around an outsider, Dr. Jake Reuben, who during his stay in Coosawaw County is educated by the Lowcountry people into a new way of healing, and who learns that the benefits of a small measure of respect far exceed the contents of his medical bag. Full of surprises, humor, compassion, and wisdom, Strangers and Sojourners is as entertaining as it is moving.

Industry Reviews

Twenty-one tales in a first collection, set in contemporary South Carolina but with a broadly stroked symbolism more at home in the gothic south of Flannery O'Connor. Here, theologian and novelist Engel (A Woman of Salt, 2001) takes us to Coosawaw County, Carolina Lowcountry, where a young Jewish doctor arrives in the early 1990s to practice among those patients other doctors in the area won't treat-poor blacks and whites, AIDS victims, the aged and the difficult. Dr. Reuben never appears as an active character but his perhaps Christlike saintliness is an underlying, unifying element here. The other doctors (except the oddly irrelevant black doctor) are narrow-minded and money-grubbing, if not downright bad. Christian ministers also come in for a drubbing in stories like "Philosophy of Education," about a woman who bucks her religious friends' opinions and nurses her dying gay husband, and "You Got To Learn How to Read Things Right," about Sister Gloria, a seer, who describes how her daughter's minister has robbed the joy from religious experience. Numerous patients are given monologues. Aged black matriarch "Queen Esther Coosawaw" uses the local dialect to tell the gratingly cute history of her life. In "Rat," a Vietnam vet talks self-deprecatingly about his life while Engel makes sure we recognize his generosity of spirit and sense of purpose. Engel's third-person stories are looser and more complex. One of the best, "A Better Man," includes some heavy-handed proselytizing about medical costs and prescription medicine abuse but then evolves into a genuinely moving account of a man's struggle to be "a better man than my father." Also moving because a character is allowed to surprise us is "What We Ought To Be," about Dr. Reuben's nurse, a familiar southern middle-class woman who transcends her stereotype. Engel writes with passion and grace but clobbers readers over the head with message. The result is easier to admire than enjoy. (Kirkus Reviews)

Acknowledgmentsp. XI
Queen Esther Coosawawp. 1
You Got to Learn How to Read Things Rightp. 8
All That We Needp. 22
Let Them Big Animals Come Backp. 45
Lowcountry Coldp. 56
Whyp. 59
A Soldier's Diseasep. 61
Ratp. 72
Who Calls Each One by Namep. 77
Philosophy of Educationp. 83
Unnatural Actsp. 105
Redeeming the Deadp. 117
Tongues of Angelsp. 133
What Addie Wantsp. 142
M to Fp. 149
A Better Manp. 158
What We Ought to Bep. 167
Dis Aliter Visump. 179
Those Who Shine Like the Starsp. 188
Epiphanyp. 207
Strangers and Sojournersp. 211
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9781582432649
ISBN-10: 1582432643
Audience: General
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 222
Published: 21st April 2004
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 20.83 x 15.09  x 2.11
Weight (kg): 0.38
Edition Number: 1