Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng

79%

11 Critic Reviews

With its evocative settings and rich McCarthyesque language, this Southern gothic packs a punch like a mean drunk.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

In the tradition of Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor, Bill Cheng’s Southern Cross the Dog is an epic literary debut in which the bonds between three childhood friends are upended by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. In its aftermath, one young man must choose between the lure of the future and the claims of the past.
 
Having lost virtually everything in the fearsome storm—home, family, first love—Robert Chatham embarks on an odyssey that takes him through the deep South, from the desperation of a refugee camp to the fiery and raucous brothel Hotel Beau-Miel and into the Mississippi hinterland, where he joins a crew hired to clear the swamp and build a dam.

Along his journey he encounters piano-playing hustlers, ne’er-do-well Klansmen, well-intentioned whores, and a family of fur trappers, the L’Etangs, whose very existence is threatened by the swamp-clearing around them. The L’Etang brothers are fierce and wild but there is something soft about their cousin Frankie, possibly the only woman capable of penetrating Robert’s darkest places and overturning his conviction that he’s marked by the devil.

Teeming with language that renders both the savage beauty and complex humanity of our shared past, Southern Cross the Dog is a tour de force that heralds the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.

 

About Bill Cheng

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Bill Cheng received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Baruch College and is a graduate of Hunter College's MFA program. Born and raised in Queens, New York, he currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife. Southern Cross the Dog is his first novel.
 
Published May 7, 2013 by Ecco. 333 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Southern Cross the Dog
All: 11 | Positive: 8 | Negative: 3

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on May 21 2013

Mr. Cheng’s mastery of this backward-looking voice is handicapped by an overwrought quality. He goes to the well too many times.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by JULIE BOSMAN on May 08 2013

From its opening pages, “Southern Cross the Dog” has all the markers of a novel written in the finest Southern gothic tradition.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Tom Cox on Nov 30 2013

It's a book full of flashes of thrilling darkness, surprising acts of kindness from bad people, and a social injustice that really crawls under your skin and angrily pulsates long after the novel is done. The overall effect is something like listening to a great lost country song...

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Jane Smiley on Oct 25 2013

In other words, Southern Cross the Dog is an experiment in submerging the reader in the rhythms and language of a period of US history and literature that has disappeared. He has made his novel out of fascination and research. It is haunting and unrelenting, perhaps best taken in small doses.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Mar 18 2013

With its evocative settings and rich McCarthyesque language, this Southern gothic packs a punch like a mean drunk.

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Kirkus

Excellent
on Feb 26 2013

The title suggests a mysterious piece of Southern folk art, and the novel works a similar magic.

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Financial Times

Good
Reviewed by Randy Boyagoda on Nov 01 2013

When this well-wrought and engrossing story is over, we go back to Cheng’s main material – his chitlin-chompin’ karaoke work, which right away feels like a louder, lesser marvel...

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Book Reporter

Excellent
Reviewed by Melanie Smith on May 15 2013

SOUTHERN CROSS THE DOG is a gritty novel with a decidedly dark literary quality, surprising and mysterious, tormenting and tortuous, and continuously unpredictable.

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The Boston Globe

Above average
Reviewed by Adam Langer on Jun 01 2013

At times, one can spend so much time marveling at Cheng’s individual sentences that the plot almost evaporates, and so, too, the dramatic tension...

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Time Out New York

Above average
Reviewed by Jonathan Liebson on May 29 2013

...the book often wanders away...For large swaths, the novel follows characters whose lives only barely intersect with Robert’s, forcing constant reorientation on the part of the reader.

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The City Paper

Good
Reviewed by Ed Tarkington on May 22 2013

...the strength of Southern Cross the Dog is the vividness of its imagery and the emotional intensity of its sentences.

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Reader Rating for Southern Cross the Dog
62%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 99 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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