|Home Across the
Road is a beautiful little novel that resonates with quiet power long after you put it aside. Long after you put it aside, you continue to think about the image of China Rhedd. China Rhedd is one of the black Rhedds, as opposed to the white Rhedds who lived in the plantation house everybody called Roseberry in the Haw River country of North Carolina.
Home Across the Road is a beautiful little novel that resonates with sounds and feelings and images of a long line of black Rhedds and white Rhedds, of Mamie who planted the wisteria vine too close to the house, of Lula Anne and William Lars Rhedd, of Riley Rhedd who was mean from the get go and who showed it by beating his son, Coyle, from the time the boy was four years old until he was thirteen.
It is China Rhedd who remembers the tales that have been passed down through her family, the history that was told from generation to generation, passed down like the earrings that had been stolen after the boy was charged with having stolen them. Cleavis, just a little boy, after he’d been wrongly accused, was sold to a slave dealer who put him in irons and carried him away. And his mama, Cally, had not been satisfied until she had the earrings in her possession. And she had hidden them in the crevice between stacked rocks under the house. And she went to them and touched them. And she passed the story and the earrings down.
After Cally listened to the rattle of the wagon carrying her son away, she cried until she couldn’t cry anymore. Her man Tom begged her to talk, but she wouldn’t. And then Tom sighed, a sigh “so big and so heavy this time that his breath leaked out of the drafty cabin and crossed the fields of cotton and circled Roseberry like wind.” His sigh was so awesome that it was felt through the generations of black and white Rhedds.
Home Across the Road resonates like the sound and the words of an old-time spiritual sung by a choir in an old-fashioned church on the edge of a field somewhere in the southland. The words and the lilt tell a story of hardship and heartfelt love, of worship and worry, of a people who keep trudging against the current of time.
If you’ve ever looked into the eyes of a person who has known pain every day of their life, you will feel the power and the excruciating pain of “Home Across the Road.” If you’ve ever listened intently to the sorrowful words of “Precious Memories” being sung a Capella by an untrained voice, you will feel the shattering softness of Nancy Peacock’s descriptions, like China Rhedd walking out of the plantation house for the last time, her body tilting forward, her hand moving to her back to steady herself, her feet heavy.
At times I felt overpowered by Ms. Peacock’s repetitious style of writing, but most of the time the rhythm was just right, the words strong, the narrative moving.
© 2001 Southern Scribe
Reviews, All Rights Reserved