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  Fiction Review   

 
The Last Noel
by Michael Malone
Sourcebooks Landmark, 2002
Hardcover, $19.95 (292 pages)
ISBN: 1-4022-0012-9
 
 

The Last Noel is a beautiful novel of a life-long friendship and interracial romance.  The chapters form a timeline of the relationship of Noni and Kaye from age seven to age forty. Their lives are linked in the history of Heavenís Hill, their music, and a sled. 

The novel begins pre-dawn Christmas 1963, when Kaye King climbs in the window of Noni Tilden.  Noniís birthday is Christmas Eve and Kayeís birthday is Christmas Day.  Kaye has come to Heavenís Hill to spend Christmas with his grandmother, whose family has always worked for the Gordons.  Noniís mother was a Gordon, and that name carries social weight their North Carolina community.  On that initial Christmas morn meeting, Kaye and Noni take her Christmas gift, a red sled, out to enjoy the rare snowfall.  The bond of friendship is branded on the sled as Noni adds Kayeís name in crayon under her painted name on the sled. 

The Last Noel captures the cultural changes in the South during the next four decades.  Kaye has to move from Philadelphia when his mother becomes mentally ill, and he becomes a classmate of Noni as well as a rare African-American student at her school.  Noniís oldest brother goes to Viet Nam against his conscience and dies there.  Kaye fights the stereotypes to get a college scholarship without athletics.  There is also the tragic story of Kayeís friend Parker, who spends time in prison and suffers from AIDS. 

Noniís parents are aware of the love between the teenage Noni and Kaye; and while Noniís father would welcome Kaye into the family, her mother would not.  Noni and Kaye seem to ride the edge of sexual tension, till they are twenty-eight. The events of that night cause a poignant turn to the romance. 

Michael Malone is former head writer for One Life to Live.  And like a well-written soap opera, the reader will need to keep a box of tissues nearby for this holiday tearjerker. 

Michael Malone is the author of nine novels and two works of nonfiction.  Educated at Carolina and at Harvard, he has taught at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Swarthmore.  Among his writing honors are the Edgar, the O. Henry, the Writers Guild Award, and the Emmy.  He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, with his wife, chair of the English department at Duke University. 

 

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

 

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