“On the sickbed there was no difference between man and woman, white and colored, rich and poor. The rich man set in his Yankee ways held out his hand to death like it was a done deal between gentlemen…”
Crossing Bully Creek is a story about a plantation owner and the people that played a part in his life and his land. It begins with the owner, Henry Detroit, dying and the year is 1969. Throughout the novel, each chapter relates the point of view of the different characters, and also different time periods, from 1929 through 1969.
Margaret Erhart, the novelist, is a New York City native, who spent winters in the deep south. She uses her personal experiences to draw out the main character, who is also a Yankee transplanted to the southern United States. We see changes in attitudes towards people of color and changes in the way they view themselves, during the course of this book. Obviously, the subject matter is important and there is a story to be told. Erhart received the Milkweed National Fiction Prize for Crossing Bully Creek.
Why then, didn’t I like this book? First, the characters were hard to follow. Most of the time I didn’t know who was who. Even by the end of the book, I could barely figure out who was black and who was white. The author employed the use of poetry/prose for the first half of the novel. Sometimes it was lovely and appropriate. Other times it seemed overdone and just the made it hard to follow the story. The second half was better. Erhart let up on the overuse of prose and things made more sense to me. Another reason I didn’t care for the book, was because I didn’t care for the characters. The author took me to a place that I really didn’t enjoy and not even people I met there could make up for it.
2 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2005