Book Review: Water Street
Publication Date: Feb 24, 2017
List Price: $19.95
Format: Paperback, 200 pages
Imprint: University Press of Kentucky
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Parent Company: University Press of Kentucky
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Book Reviewed by Thumper
Recently, I had the pleasure of reading the short story collection, Water
Street, written by Crystal E Wilkinson. I loved it. The short stories are slices
of the lives of the residents of a black neighborhood in a small Kentucky town.
In an effort to describe what I feel about Water Street, I’m going to use a word
that I have never used in a review before…charming. Water Street is a small,
charming bundle of goodness.
Water Street is comprised of 13 short stories that cover a wide spectrum of living. Each story is narrated by one character as they relate a particular event in their lives. With characters weaving in and out of the stories, like swinging doors, Wilkinson brings the people, secrets and dreams of Water Street to life.
I adored all of the stories. But of course, some I loved more than others. Before I Met My Father: Angie is remarkable. Fifteen-year-old Angie decides she wants to visit her father, who she has never met, and whose name she does not even know. Wilkinson softly and poignantly depicts the death of Angie’s long-held fantasies of her father, and her painful realization that dreams and reality are sworn enemies. Wilkinson was able to show Angie’s anguish honestly, stripped of all pretension and Oprah-colored preconceptions. Before I Met My Father: Angie is a well-written story that caused my heart to ache.
In The Evolution of Sandy Crawford: Sandy, Wilkinson examines the inner conflict of a woman in transition. The story is wonderful and struck an emotional cord that resonated after I read the story. I hated for the story to end. I wanted to see Sandy through the rest of her journey and where it would ultimately lead her.
Respite: Pauline was a story that I flat-out enjoyed. Due to health problems, Pauline goes to her son’s home to recuperate. Wilkinson covers several topics in this heartwarming story: growing older, an interracial relationship, and living life to the fullest. Although Pauline is 80 years old, at the end of the story I said, "U go girl!" Hard to believe, ain’t it? *smile *
Sixteen Confessions of Lois Carter: Lois is an engaging, insightful tale of a white woman who’s been married to a black man, Pauline’s son, for over 20 years. Wilkinson expertly reveals the fence that Lois sits on which divides her two worlds — black and white. Wilkinson showed dimensions of an interracial relationship through the eyes of a white woman. Wilkinson wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this if she wasn’t acutely attuned to her character and to human nature. This highly insightful writing is also evidence of Wilkinson’s courage to be truthful to the hearts of her characters.
Short story writing is an art that I have learned to appreciate only in recent years. Water Street is a small, intimate masterpiece. Wilkinson is a true artist creating, with a sturdy and graceful hand, lullabies without happy endings. She neither compromises nor dampens the raw emotional fallout, which keeps her tales and characters’ authentic in their beauty and their agony. I have no problem placing Wilkinson’s Water Street alongside Reginald McKnight’s White Boys, J. California Cooper’s Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime, Ernest Gaines’ Bloodline, Christine Lincoln’s Sap Rising, and my all-time favorite Langston Hughes’ The Ways of White Folks. Water Street is a lyrical wonder I wouldn’t mind visiting again and again.