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 Fiction Review   


The Rock Orchard: A Novel
by Paula Wall
Atria Books, 2005
Hardcover, $24.00 (244 pages)
ISBN: 0-7434-9620-5
  Known for her humorous column about life in the South, appropriately named "Off the Wall," Paula Wall has now taken her pen and view of Southern relationships to book-length fiction. Her debut novel The Rock Orchard is filled with belly laughs and home-spun wisdom from beginning to end.

The outrageous Belle women of Leaper's Fork, Tennessee, are free-spirits, sexually adventurous, and caretakers of their community. To know a Belle woman will change your life.

"Some women can touch a man and heal like Jesus. The man who sees sunrise from a Belle woman's bed will swear he's born again."

Musette Belle, a Cajun French, was so beautiful that her husband Bedford Braxton Belle forgot everything, especially to divorce his first wife. Besides casting a spell over men with her beauty, Musette was a psychic and had the ability to place her hand on a newborn and see their future destiny.

The granddaughters of Musette, Charlotte and Odette carried on in the family way. Odette while trying to join the Mile High Club in a hot air balloon, unfortunately was struck by lightening, but was thrilled as well by the ride down to her death.  Odette's baby girl Angela was sent to her sister Charlotte to raise.

Charlotte Belle, the richest person in Leaper's Fork, was well aware that money makes money. She motivated the citizens of her town by inspiring them to greatness and investing in their talent. Sweet cigar smoking and cussing Charlotte loved to attend funerals and walk the rock orchard (cemetery) at night.

At age 17, Angela Belle had her daughter Dixie while lying down in the flowerbed of the new doctor's home. She had always gone out of her way to help the community. Carrying on Musette's gift, Angela Belle visited every newborn to prophesize their destiny. She also tells grown men where to focus their energy for greatness: become a senator, build a hospital, etc.

The Rock Orchard will touch your heart with the poignant tales of love lost and regained. The wisdom of the Belle women will stay with you and cause you to look at your neighbors and loved ones with new insight. The words of the Belle spell are powerful: "What a brave girl you are. What a strong fine woman you are going to be." Say them to someone and watch the miracle.

Paula Wall is the author of two collections of essays, My Love is Free...But the Rest of Me Don't Come Cheap and If I Were a Man, I'd Marry Me, which was a semifinalist for the Thurber Prize. She lives in a converted barn on 150 acres outside of Nashville, Tennessee. The Rock Orchard is her first novel and surely not her last.

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews


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