Carry Me Home
In the early-to-mid-20th century, the American South is suffering economically, and hope lies in finding enough work to barely survive or dreams of a better life elsewhere. Terri Wiltshire has written a story about a sub-culture of people who work in small-town jobs or “ride the rails” seeking a dream never realized because of their inability to surmount brutality and small-mindedness.
Within such a negative world, and indeed surmounting it, are characters like Canaan Phillips and her grandmother’s brother, Luke. Canaan initially left Alabama, spurred on by a high school teacher who saw talent matching aspirations of a better existence. Reaching New York City, Canaan marries but quickly returns to her home, a physically and emotionally battered, scarred woman. Attempting to shut out her grandmother’s “I told you so” harassment and attempts to pin her down to accepting who she is and where she belongs, Canaan begins to find some consolation in visiting Luke. Considered “simple,” Luke has an interesting history on the rails that leads to discovery of the secret behind his birth and his actual abilities. Luke is a very, very special character indeed, one who enables the beginning of Canaan’s healing.
There is so much pain and tragedy, so much misunderstanding and abuse in this novel. Yet the dignity and respect Terri Wiltshire confers on these characters is so noble and endearing that the reader is compelled to rapidly turn the pages to discover what happens next. Historical events are absent for most of this novel that offers a social and psychological portrait of Southern living defying labels and commemorating pride, endurance, and love of life.