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:
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.