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 ChengSee more books from this Author
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...Read Full Review of Southern Cross the Dog | See more reviews from Guardian
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.Read Full Review of Southern Cross the Dog | See more reviews from Guardian
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...Read Full Review of Southern Cross the Dog | See more reviews from Financial Times
SOUTHERN CROSS THE DOG is a gritty novel with a decidedly dark literary quality, surprising and mysterious, tormenting and tortuous, and continuously unpredictable.Read Full Review of Southern Cross the Dog
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...Read Full Review of Southern Cross the Dog
...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.Read Full Review of Southern Cross the Dog
...the strength of Southern Cross the Dog is the vividness of its imagery and the emotional intensity of its sentences.Read Full Review of Southern Cross the Dog
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