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Fiction Reviews  

Water from the Well
by Myra McLarey
Grove Press Reprint Edition, 2000
ISBN: 0-8021-3716-4

Myra McLarey is a storyteller of rare quality.  Her debut novel Water from the Well paints a mural of time and place, spanning almost a hundred years in southwest Arkansas.  Like the red night that opens the first story, the book is filled with images that color symbolizes – passion, violence and blood.  

The six stories that form the novel’s timeline, follow the lives of the people of the white community Sugars Spring and the black community of Bethel, which the whites call Chickenham.  McLarey captures the elements of both communities through the complex personalities of her characters.  She gives a realistic portrayal of the racial relationships in the South. 

“Red Sky at Night” opens with a 1919 baseball game between the men of Sugars Spring and Chickenham.  The sexual tension builds as the women watch the strength and power of the black players.  That evening in the Sugars Spring bedrooms, testosterone rises as husbands do their best to prove they are the better men.  The passion and violence continues the next day in “Red Sky at Morning” as a tornado takes its toll on the communities.  The scene is choreography at it’s finest as two women walk slowly out of its path; as a young black mother flies through the air and dies while her ‘Baby’ lives; and as a young white mother flies through the air clutching her son yet survives as she hangs by her red hair from a tree. 

“Baby, Leaving” finds the infant who survived the tornado as a young woman living with her grandmother and great-grandmother.  Believing she was saved for something big, she goes to St. Louis and chooses the name ‘Jasmine Rose.’   Like the tornado, Baby’s life is touched by abuse and chaos.   

Humor is strong in “The Choosing of Little Jewel” and “The Salvation of Cora Emery McRae.”  Both are touching love stories, where the women prove to be feisty and strong.   

McLarey chose the novel's title from an old spiritual in which Jesus gave a woman living water and not water from the well.  But like the woman receiving living water, McLarey’s novel will send the reader away singing.

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Review

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