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Fiction Review 

Taking Lottie Home
By Terry Kay
William Morrow, 2000
ISBN: 0-688-17646-1

 

Several years ago Terry Kay wanted to write a book about local baseball hero Ty Cobb.  After a couple of attempts with a manuscript that didn't work, he moved on.  Yet, he returned to the manuscript during a dry spell, and discovered what was missing.  The story wasn't about baseball, but this female character on the train with the players -- a woman with a gentle spirit and haunting eyes.  It was the story of Lottie Lanier and her journey home. 

The novel begins in 1904 at a minor league field in Augusta, Georgia.  Two players must be cut from the roster.  At 29, Foster Lanier is already a has-been baseball star.  He knows this is his last game.   

Ben Phelps and Milo Wade are childhood best friends and rookies.  Milo is a natural with the bat and bound for a career with the majors.  Ben is good in the field, but can't hit the ball at the plate.  Even an amazing catch during the last game cannot save Ben Phelps from the cut. 

On the train Foster and Ben take from Augusta, they meet a traveling salesman and a young girl hoping to find a new life.  Raised in poverty in a shack on the Savannah River, Lottie dreams of escaping her hopeless world.  Her beauty is her ticket out, and she is willing to barter her body for fare.  Foster recognizes the mix of worldly knowledge and gentle innocence within the girl.  He ends up taking the girl from the salesman, planning to return her to her family in Augusta. 

Years pass, as Foster and Lottie join a carnival show traveling the South.  They are reunited with Ben Phelps, when the carnival comes to his hometown of Jericho, Georgia.  The bond between the trio becomes stronger as Foster aids Ben in becoming a local hero and as they are bound by secrets.   

Ben becomes a clerk in dry goods store and falls in love with the owner's young daughter.  Foster is dying and summons Ben to Kentucky to take Lottie home to Augusta.  Ben creates a series of lies in order to keep his plans secret from those at home.  Once he gets to Kentucky, he discovered that Lottie has married Foster and they have a young son named Ben.  Once Foster is buried, they get on the train to return to Georgia; yet, the child and Ben become seriously ill.  Lottie gets off the train at Jericho to get Ben home.   

The risk of the house of lies falling apart is strong, yet Lottie's eyes drawn people to her.  Like an "Angel of the Lonesome", Lottie fills the needs of those around her.  She provides a child for a lonely mother, a girl friend for a young woman without female companionship, and love for a man in a loveless marriage.  Lottie gives without taking.

Terry Kay has created a touching story about what it is to find one's home.  For Lottie, it is not only the place where she was raised, but also the love of the people that surround her and the self-love that comes from finding peace. 

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

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