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Fiction Review    

 
Willem's Field
By Melinda Haynes
The Free Press, 2003
Hardcover, $24.00 (384 pages)
ISBN: 0-7432-3849-4

 

 
 

Willem Fremont suffers from panic attacks. At seventy, he's decided the time has come to travel back to his childhood home in Purvis, Mississippi, where he hopes he can find the answers to what activated his lifelong problem. 

The Till family, Eilene, Sonny, Bruno, and Leah, now live on what was once the Fremont family's farm. The Tills suffer from a different, but no less debilitating, kind of family dysfunction. 

Eilene, their matriarch, feigns hardness of hearing as a way of controlling communication with her sons. She knows her family is coming undone and their proximity only serves to magnify and exacerbate the problem. 

Sonny, who has never married and still lives with his mother, has made up a girlfriend in order to spend some time out of the house. He's building a shrimp boat in their land-locked backyard and has run up debts in order to pay for his obsessive dream. 

Bruno and Leah, who married in a fit of passion, are suffering from midlife ennui and the effects Bruno's experience in Vietnam. Bruno has a spinal injury that has left him unable to work on the farm and Leah copes by trying to tend the farm. The fact that Eilene can look across the field and watch their every move isn't helping Leah's mood. 

As in the best Southern novels, the locals accept eccentrics with compassion and curiosity. 

Willem's Field is Haynes' most accomplished work to date. The characters are fully realized, complex beings and the story celebrates the power of reconciliation. 

Melinda Haynes, lives in the Mobile Bay area of Alabama and grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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