This week I successfully got back on my Deal Me In reading schedule, pretty much. The deck of cards dealt me the Four of Hearts, which sends me back to my list of Mississippi authors (in honor of the Mississippi bicentennial) and a story by Elizabeth Spencer. I read another story by Spencer earlier this year ("A Southern Landscape," Week 12), and this story, "On the Hill," was very different from that one. I suddenly realized that she has the distinction of occupying two spots on my roster of Mississippi authors, along with Faulkner and Welty. That was not by design -- I think it was more about what was available to me in terms of reading resources, although I did buy Starting Over, the collection in which we find this story, specifically for Deal Me In this year.
The title of this story refers to the location of the house of Barry and Jan Daugherty, recent transplants to the small town of Eltonville. They are a bit aloof and more than a little mysterious, but everyone who's anyone in town loves to attend their elegant dinner parties.
Eva Rooke and her husband Dick are some of the Daughertys' guests, and Eva especially begins to be sucked into something of an obsession about figuring out who the Daughertys really are. This is because she sees certain things that make her wonder just what exactly is going on. One day she sees Barry coming out of the Holy Brotherhood of Jesus church, a strange cult on the edge of town. On another day, the Daughertys' son Riley shows up at Eva's front door after school, saying that his mom has gone away and he can't get in his house. Upon investigation, Eva discovers that Jan is inside the house, apparently drunk and passed out. The story gets more and more enigmatic from there, with Eva never really figuring out what the Daughertys were all about, even long after they suddenly move away.
Rating: 4 stars; I liked this story even though I feel like I didn't really understand it. I am still relatively new to Spencer's writing, and I enjoy her style. In this story, she also did an excellent job of pulling the reader into Eva's thoughts, curiosity, and confusion about the Daughertys. I still plan to read more of her work.
Deal Me In 2017 is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
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