As the title implies, this beautifully written collection bursts with stories reminiscent of blackberries-–-small, succulent morsels that are inviting and sweet, yet sometimes bitter. Crystal Wilkinson provides an almost voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of her characters: Two misfit teenagers seek stolen moments of love and acceptance in the cloak of night ("Hushed"); a woman spends every waking hour obsessed with dying yet ironically watching her loved ones pass away before her ("Waiting on the Reaper"); a wife confronts her husband's mistress in a diner over potato skins and cornbread ("Need"); and a pious young woman's torment erupt in a violent and unsuspecting resolution ("No Ugly Ways").
The stories in this award-winning collection are terse and transient, like snippets taken from random dreams, thoughts, or conversations. Wilkinson is able to embed a vibrancy into each stunningly descriptive and evocative tale. Infused with humor, sadness and honesty, this provocative and haunting work features a new foreword and a new afterword by nationally acclaimed authors Nikky Finney and Honorée Jeffers.
Foreword by Nikky Finney Introduction Music for Meriah The Awakening Hushed Girl Talk Chocolate Divine Humming Back Yesterday Peace of Mind Mr Mine Women's Secrets Tipping the Scales Mules Ritual The Wonderer Deviled Eggs Waiting on the Reaper Need No Ugly Ways Afterword by Honorée Jeffers Reading Guide Acknowledgments About the Author
Crystal Wilkinson is author of The Birds of Opulence, winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence,and Water Street, which was a finalist for both the UK's Orange Prize for Fiction and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. The winner of the 2008 Denny Plattner Award in Poetry from Appalachian Heritage magazine and the Sallie Bingham Award from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, she serves as Appalachian Writer-in-Residence at Berea College and teaches in the Spalding University low residency MFA in Creative Writing Program.
These tales work the magic Wilkinson intended.
~The Atlanta Tribune
Through the diversity of her characters and the richness of her language, Wilkinson has taught me a lot. Her made-up characters have made me more aware of my soul.
Wilkinson makes a stunning debut with this lyrical collection of short stories set in the rural outback of the South. Written with an extraordinary grasp of descriptive prose, the author transports readers to the humid beauty of the backcountry and the people who inhabit the area. Proud—yet vulnerable—women waiting for a little bit of happiness to find them, women looking back at their lives with fondness and just a tinge of regret.... [A]ll of these characters come alive under Wilkinson's sure hand.
Crystal Wilkinson has written a lovely, heart wrenching and terribly wise book. These Kentucky women become with each page turned your sister, your mama, your friend. These tales of women in love, lost and found, is a voice from the heartland you won't be able to forget.
~Marita Golden, author of Living out Loud: A Writer's Journey
Crystal Wilkinson's characters live and breathe. They walk, talk and leap off the page into your lap and living rooms from their front porch. Her honest and sensual narrative pulls the reader in like a lover sharing their most intimate secrets. Sometimes whispering, often times singing, but always clear and evocative. Her Affrilachian tenor rings throughout this work. Let out the sleeper sofa. Throw in more potatoes to stretch the soup. Her characters are about to move in.
~Frank X Walker, author of Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York