That’s what Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump, says it feels like to read Niles Reddick’s new novel, Drifting Too Far From the Shore:
Readers will come to love feisty Charlotte “Muddy” Rewis who, despite the bad news in the world, triumphs by making a difference in her own way. Chock full of humor, Drifting Too Far From the Shore is a beautiful story that makes you feel like you have been transported back to small town America.
I agree. And I agreed to read and review the book, which was sent to me by the director of Summertime Publications earlier this summer
I love the main character’s voice: 70-something “Muddy” reflects on the latest news of the day—everything from abused boys at a school in Florida to tornadoes, Jonestown, and 9/11. Reddick places Muddy in the position of learning about, and often acting on, serious events, but without losing her sense of humor, a tricky balance. And the reader never loses sight of Muddy’s point of view, and her strong Christian conservative values. I think my mother, who grew up in Mississippi in the 1930s and ‘40s and lived there until her death at age eighty-eight this past May, would have really enjoyed this book. One of her favorite authors was the Mississippi writer, Willie Morris, whom Reddick must have read.
Reddick’s tone also reminds me a bit of Jan Karon in her Mitford series, also set in a small town, and with a touch of mystery and romance amongst the older set. Karon places her colorful cast of characters in North Carolina, while Reddick chooses Georgia as the setting for his stories, but the South itself often appears as an additional character in these types of books. Setting—and sense of place—are everything in the Southern novel.
You can read a sample of Drifting Too Far From the Shore here, in Southern Reader.
Niles and I “met” online a few years ago when we both participated in “A Good Blog is Hard To Find”—a Southern writers blog featuring over fifty authors. Here’s a sample post of his from 2012: “Sweet Music Man.” (And not to toot my own horn, but here’s a post I did for A Good Blog back in 2010 that relates to my review of Niles’ book: “The Crossroads of Circumstance: Setting in Southern Literature.”)
I’ll close with a bit more information about the author:
Niles Reddick’s collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities was a finalist for an Eppie award, his novel Lead Me Home was a national finalist for a ForeWord Award, a finalist in the Georgia Author of the Year award in the fiction category, and a nominee for an IPPY award. His work has appeared in anthologies Southern Voices in Every Direction and Unusual Circumstances and has been featured in many journals including “The Arkansas Review: a Journal of Delta Studies,” “Southern Reader,” “Like the Dew,” “The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature,” “The Pomanok Review,” “Corner Club Press,” “Slice of Life,” “Deep South Review,” “The Red Dirt Review,” “Faircloth Review,” “New Southerner,” and many others. He works for the University of Memphis at Lambuth in Jackson, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife Michelle, two children, Audrey and Nicholas.
You can purchase Drifting Too Far From the Shore at your local independent bookstore (please do!). Sorry I didn’t get this review out in July, when there was a book giveaway on Goodreads (913 people entered, and the contest was over July 31) but it’s in paperback so it won’t bust your budget. Enjoy!