Walking Among The Kudzu
by H. Victoria Hargro Atkerson
Following her debut "Stones Along The Path, Part 1 & 2," Atkerson’s unbridled talent has spun another tantalizing, visceral, and unflinching tale. The nation’s tumultuous Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s coupled with the fitful, unmanageable crispation of the kudzu vines, common in Atlanta, Georgia, prove to be a captivating setting for the novel’s heroine, Shelby Reed.
The reader accompanies Shelby from an unwanted daughter in Chicago to her shipment to relatives in Atlanta, Georgia. The enmity between Shelby and her mother in Chicago only begs for a better life for her in Atlanta. Her growth from childhood through motherhood is truthfully and poignantly laid bare in all its richness. Thus, when she says, "I have spent my whole life looking for love and craving acceptance," an apt reply is, "You certainly did."
By way of prose that is lyrical and precise, the author breathes life into an array of characters who are colorful, loveable, and at times downright despicable, but never uninteresting. You will love Mom Moses, who is the matriarch in the novel. She is well geared with a panoply of weapons to defend and protect those she loves. If she cannot assuage the situation with her southern comfort food, she has a steady fist always at the ready as a backup. Mr. Marshall, "Bubba," is a talented and respected lawyer whose white skin at times does not adequately restrain his black inner soul. Mom Moses reared him from a baby, and as a result, he considers her as his mom with all the benefits that go with the title. Then, there’s Andre, Mom Moses’ nephew. His dubious sexual identity is confusing to everyone but himself. He knows he’s a lady. His appearance at the US Recruiting Office as a draftee makes for an unparalleled moment. His glib retorts and mannerisms are great comical reliefs at just the right time.
Much, much more than a tale of woe, "Walking Among The Kudzu" is solidly packed with anguish, pathos, unrequited love, humor, and the supernatural. Shelby takes the reader along with her as she unfolds her eventful life. What about the kudzu vine? Early in the novel, Shelby is told, "They (the vines) have a mind of their own. They grow wild… just like us." Walking Among The Kudzu" is no leisurely stroll, it’s a multi-tiered romp!
—Review by S. Lawrence Wright, Philadelphia Community College, English Department