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 Fiction Review   

 

 

Early Leaving
By Judy Goldman
William Morrow, 2004
Hardcover, $24.95 (293 pages)
ISBN: 0-06-059458-6
 
 
 

Something's gone terribly wrong in the Smallwood family. Like most couples, Peter and Kathyrne expected mundane problems with their son Early. They were prepared for the bouts of childhood diseases, unrequited crushes, and adolescent competitions. Nothing could prepare them to face the sentencing of their son in the killing of another teenager. 

Awaiting the verdict, Kathyrne reflects upon her life haunted by her inadequacies as a parent and as a human. She replays every decision she's ever made regarding Early, wondering if she loved him too much. Kathyrne's only desire has been to keep her son safe and happy. In her determination, she's driven walls between her husband and son, her husband and herself, and, as she realizes too late, between herself and her son. 

Always -- theoretically -- in favor of civil rights and equal rights, Kathyrne is forced her to reexamine the attitudes she's taken for granted.

Unhappy with the public schools in Charlotte, she insists on putting her son in a private school. Unwilling to accept that her cleaning woman (who is in a physically abusive marriage) takes soap and small necessities from her home, Kathyrne "lets her go" without explanation. When Early shoots a young black man, she's forced to admit her distrust. Throughout the novel, Kathyrne's grief is palpable. 

Set in 1987 and told in flashback, Leaving Early is post Civil Rights and pre-Columbine, yet somehow the causes and effects seem obvious. The questions of class distinctions, race relations, and teenagers with guns remain. 

Judy Goldman, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina is the author of two collections of poetry. Her first novel, The Slow Way Back, won the Sir Walter Raleigh Fiction Award an the Mary Ruffin Poole First Work of Fiction Award. It was also a finalist for the Southeastern Bookseller's Best Novel of the Year.

 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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