Safe from the Neighbors

(Fiction; Knopf, 2010)

All southern writers, but especially those from Mississippi, must contend with Faulkner in ways that writers from other regions of the country never have to. Ohio writers never have to deal with inevitable comparisons to Toni Morrison, nor do writers from the suburbs of New York suffer automatic associations with John Cheever. But the ghost of Faulkner lies down on his homeland and its writers, and his writing and spirit become a thing, for better or worse, that is injected into nearly every reading of every Southern author since. The strength of Steve Yarbrough’s work is that he both embraces his cultural heritage and moves beyond it, as is evident in his new novel, Safe from the Neighbors. With a keen understanding of Faulkner’s famous line that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past,” at the novel’s outset he presents Luke May, a high school history teacher who becomes involved in an affair with Maggie Calloway, a mysterious woman from his childhood who is connected to him in ways he can’t begin to fathom.

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