Visible Spirits

Written by Steve Yarbrough
Review by Jetta Culpepper

In the Mississippi Delta where plantations were carved from forest, Jim Crow challenges Reconstruction. It is 1902 and echoes of field chants, like threads of mythology, thrive. Tandy Payne, troublemaker and gambler, returns to Loring, Mississippi. Now mayor and editor of the newspaper, Leighton Payne is a spokesperson of liberal opinions. Loda Jackson, the postmistress, is the only African-American in the state with a government appointment. Sam Payne, father of the disagreeing brothers, was a planter whose slaves once included Loda’s mother. Tandy seeks the position of postmaster by petition. Loda, hoping to avoid further conflict, submits her resignation. This painful upheaval is left unsolved. The ending is not entirely unpredictable.

The plot draws from an incident surrounding the author’s hometown post office in Indianola, Mississippi. The character development resembles that of Faulkner, and the terse writing style reminds the reader somewhat of Hemingway. The silence in what is not said keeps one reading. Details of generational atrocities lead the reader to hope descendants of the people have put this grotesque ugliness to rest.

This novel filled with memorable characters and a realistic insight to our history is highly recommended.