Raney by Clyde Edgerton

Years ago an English teacher friend told me about meeting Clyde Edgerton and his wife at a dinner of some kind. It was immediately clear to her that this book, though fictional, had elements of autobiography; the Edgertons’ public interaction was so similar to Charles and Raney’s relationship (although that similarity could have happened after the book was written as a result of people’s assumptions.) Be that as it may, after hearing her opinion I absolutely had to read the book.

Charles and Raney Shepherd are newlyweds living in Listre, NC. He’s a community college librarian from Atlanta, a liberal and an Episcopalian who likes the occasional drink. She’s a hometown girl from a rock-ribbed conservative family, a Free Will Baptist and a teetotaler. They met and were drawn to each other because of a shared love of performing bluegrass and folk music. Each brings different expectations and visions of what married life will be, of course, but they don’t immediately understand how far apart those expectations are.

That changes with their wedding night. Raney is in her negligee and she has prepared for the moment by reading the Bible and talking to her mama, which is all any woman needs to do, but Charles has different ideas and is interested in doing things too horrible to relate. After recovering from that shock (and refusing to discuss it), Raney discovers that she and Charles have different ideas about almost everything and different language for talking about the matters on which they agree. As the differences pile up, Charles convinces Raney to go with him to a “psychiatric”, Raney’s word for a marriage counselor. Eventually the reader sees that marriage and family are not for the faint of heart, yet they are among the world’s greatest blessings.

The author has captured the speech and cadence of the coastal plain of NC perfectly, or perhaps I should say the rural speech of the area as it was 30 years ago; since there have been a lot of changes and outside influences. It reminds me of distant cousins and aunts and uncles and how confusing I found their speech once upon a time. Now I understand better the changing nature of language and communication and I’m grateful to have this book as a “retrolingual” relic.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

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One Response to “Raney by Clyde Edgerton”

  1. The Hook Says:

    The printed page rocks, right?

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