Once I get over being envious and annoyed that Bob Moyer got hold of this new Lee Smith novel before I did, I will find it and read it. She’s a bright star of contemporary Southern and North Carolina fiction.
Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer.
SILVER ALERT. By Lee Smith. Algonquin Books. 224 pages. $27.
For some time, Lee Smith has been the voice of the Appalachian Mountains, in such classic novels as Family Linen and Oral History. Her characters carry the soul and syntax of the South in their every sentence, through happiness, pain and sorrow, all of which fill her books.
In her latest, one of the main characters has the twang of the Kentucky mountains on her tongue. After a long trip south, through sexual abuse, slavery, addiction, prostitution and prison, Dee Dee ends up in Florida. Through all that tribulation, she remains a good spirit, and an old soul. In prison, she picked up manicurist training, and that’s how she ends up at the home of Herb Atlas. He’s the other old soul in the book—a really old soul. He has a different twang, but one that Smith does as well as any other—that of a septuagenarian with a lot of money, a bad prostate and a wife with early-onset Alzheimers.
Before long, it’s clear that Dee Dee and Herb are the only ones who care for Herb’s wife Susan, and only Dee Dee can keep her calm. The two caretakers develop a (platonic) bond. Complications in both Dee Dee’s love life and Herb’s family lead ultimately to the obvious point of this story—a Silver Alert.
The book is much shorter than the usual Smith book, and in spite of the description above, light in tone. it’s a quick and entertaining read, possibly one sitting. The author’s fans will feel at home, and everyone else will feel welcome