A debut novel in which an industrial downsizer faces small-town racism, political hardball, and the chance for love and redemption
In the darkness of a May night in the middle of rural Ohio, Ray Stanton is thrown, naked and injured, from a pickup truck. For hours, he struggles to get back to town, unable to make sense of what has just happened until, half-conscious and in pain, he collapses at the door of his neighbor, Mae Reeves.
So begins Cry Uncle, a novel of small-town politics, racism, and love, the soul-searching story of a man who learns what really matters in life. A "re-engineer," Ray has recently moved to Brighton and just begun his new job firing workers at the local textile mill as he undertakes to modernize the plant. For Ray, the job seems ethical if not noble. If he does well, the Windy Oaks shirt factory might have a chance to survive NAFTA and outsourcing, and so might the mill town of Brighton. But many think otherwise.
Part mystery, part love story, the tale hinges on both revenge and redemption. Cry Uncle introduces us to Ray, a white man newly separated and unfettered, and the Reeves women, Mae and Kayla, mother and daughter, one black and the other biracial. These three characters, dogged by a cop who is always one step ahead of everyone, confront the leader of the "punks" who tortured Ray. As Ray's behavior becomes-even to himself-new and unpredictable, this suspenseful and meditative novel asks telling questions: Who do we choose to be when no one is looking? Do we fight? Or do we cry uncle?
A prize-winning poet, Alan Michael Parker, Davidson, North Carolina, is associate professor of English and director of the creative writing program at Davidson College. He is the author of Love Song with Motor Vehicles, The Vandals, and Days Like Prose.
Photo: Alan Michael Parker-courtesy of the author