Someone had left this slim book in my Little Free Library and I snatched it when I saw on the cover the name William Styron, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Sophie’s Choice and a devastating memoir about his battle with depression among other works.

The three tales in “A Tidewater Morning” are fictionalized accounts from his youth.

In Shadrach, a 99-year old former Black slave makes his way from Alabama back to Virginia to be buried on the plantation where he’d once been a slave, creating a dilemma for the family living on the land now. In Love Day, a young marine lieutenant on a troopship in the Pacific near the end of World War II prepares for an assault on Okinawa while recalling his father helping build some of the warships in the armada.

The strongest story, the title one, recounts a single painful and milestone day for a 13-year-old boy in 1938 whose mother is dying of cancer.

Considered one of the giants of twentieth-century literature, Styron grew up in Virginia the son of progressive parents but the product of a racist community. His upbringing shows in these wonderful stories.

In A Tidewater Morning he writes:

I lived in a racist society and had been inoculated so early against the idea of equality that a part of me supinely went along with the prevailing view that Negroes were a lesser breed of human being. But parental enlightenment and my own conscience—I would like to think it was no more complicated than Huck Finn’s—caused me to know otherwise.

William Styron

That passage is as relevant today as ever, and Styron’s effortless, fluid, and mesmerizing prose style is not found often in contemporary writing. At only 142 pages, this book is a great introduction to Styron and will be appreciated by anyone who picks it up.

5/5 Stars

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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