Raised in the Primitive Baptist Church, Beulah Buchanan at age 16 marries the much older deacon Ralph Rainey to escape from her oppressive parents, thus jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Over the next six years, Beulah works in her domineering husband's cafe all day and cooks him dinner at home every night, dutifully attends church, and falls into an affair with the preacher. When she embarasses her husband by not cooking enough food for the ravenous visiting revival preacher, Ralph "chastises" Beulah with his belt. When he tries to beat her again on another occasion, she fights back and locks him in the cooler at his cafe, where he freezes to death. This sounds like and is a Southern Gothic tragedy, but it is told in Beulah's voice, which is innocently hilarious. Beulah is an original, but readers who liked Clyde Eagerton's Raney and Mark Childress's Crazy in Alabama will hear familiar echoes of those Southern women protagonists.
"If you grew up in the environment of New Jerusalem and unrestrained, fundamentalist religion, this is deja vu. If you didn't, Clayton Sullivan will take you there. Be prepared to hurt and laugh, marvel, censure, and say Amen. But hold on all the way." --civil rights veteran and author of Brother to a Dragonfly "Clayton Sullivan has written a novel that is at turns rollicking and heart-rending, the story of sixteen year old Beulah Buchanan's fateful marriage to thirty-six year old widower Ralph Rainey, a man of many parts, a man who is a "lollipop" in public and a "rattlesnake" in the privacy of his own home. This marriage starts and more or less ends in the New Jerusalem Primitive Baptist Church in New Jerusalem, Mississippi, population not enough, and over the course of its six year span, told in retrospect, draws a startling raw and touching portrait of small town life in the rural south. Sullivan has a deft touch with traditional Southern dialect, an eye for complex intimacies, and plenty of old-fashioned heart." --Frederick Barthelme, professor, University of Southern Mississippi