Thursday, December 13, 2018

SOUTHERN CROSS

Front cover of Southern Cross

Janet Faulk, a native Alabaman now working in New Iberia, Louisiana, stays close to her southern roots when she writes most of the time. However, when she discovered a diary written by an anonymous Alabaman who traveled abroad to find his fortune following the War Between the States, she became fascinated by his account of a colony of Alabamans who settled in Brazil and moved her literary interests farther afield. Over a decade later, after transcribing the handwritten diary of an anonymous man who authored the Brazilian Travel Diary, she wrote finis to Southern Cross. 

Based on a true account, but written in the tradition of “non-fiction fiction,” Southern Cross also mesmerizes readers with a love story between the major characters, John Foster and widowed Kate Teal who develop a shipboard romance en route from Baltimore, Maryland to Brazil. The romance is related in deft, accessible prose, and Kate’s life of “inconsistencies…in which she moves toward something rather than away from something” keeps the reader transfixed about her survival once she departs from Mississippi near the Escatawpa River for the hinterlands of Brazil.

Faulk’s finesse with description emerges in the first chapter; e.g., “Nothing brings buried thoughts to the surface like the first dark of evening. At twilight when shadows lay long and thin in the grass, the fading light of day pulls color along with it and orchestrates a symphony of evening sound. This is the time of day when it becomes difficult to tell a black cat from its shadow and stillness spills over the earth like indigo ink. Then, the night movement takes shape with the subtle rustle of a raccoon family easing along the water’s edge, the whirr of seven-year locusts creating a rhythmic background for an occasional bullfrog croaking and the singular intermittent chirping of a lone cricket…”

Faulk skillfully weaves rich descriptions of the diarist’s visits to farms and lumber operations scattered throughout Brazil and brings into focus the politics, slavery issues, and future of agriculture (cotton, sugar cane, etc.) in 19th century Brazil. Romantic scenes between John and Kate are interspersed in alternate chapters to sustain interest in the diarist’s detailed explorations of the diverse countryside.

Choctaws, African slaves, Brazilians—Faulk introduces international diversity among her cast of characters, working to achieve authenticity and remaining faithful to historical detail through the extensive research she completed. Her readings included the work of Zora Neal Hurston, Sylviane A. Diouf, and Sandra Medlock, Operations Manager, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. 

Conversations between John and Kate contain serious ruminations about religion and ethics, and the end of Southern Cross will leave readers contemplating a softer denouement, but Kate embodies a kind of Faulknerean observation that humans will not only endure, they’ll prevail. This is a real page turner, as well as a heart warmer told with certainty of tone and narrated with an instinct for detail and sure sense of self.

Janet Faulk

Janet Faulk is a native of northeast Alabama and has resided most of her adult life in south Louisiana where she lives with her husband, Rudy Gonzales. Southern Cross is her first historical fiction. Previously, she published a book of personal essays, The Road Home, and co-authored Porch Posts with the poet Diane Marquart Moore.


Available online from Amazon and signed copies by mail from the author (janet.faulk@yahoo.com).


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