Monday, August 29, 2005

A PORTION UNDER THE SUN by Mark Schafron (Booklocker)

So here's the plot: Country boy is a talented musician. Country boy is tired of living with his veteran father and his apathetically-married mother. Country boy wants to escape Tennessee. Country boy finds his way to the big city life of New York and is changed forever.

And here's the kicker: It's 1899.

Seem like a story that could play out today? Of course. And it does. Human longing (and, I suppose, suffering) never changes. The desires (success, fame, escape) and responsibilities (making a decent living, caring for an ailing parent) are repeated, generation after generation. And while the story in A PORTION UNDER THE SUN could take place today, tomorrow, 15 years from now, Mark Schafron decided to place it in the post-Civil War era--and has done so with accuracy and beauty.

Yeatman C. Alley's talent is being a master of the violin (better known as the fiddle for our turn-of-the-century setting) and he is determined to see what he can make of it in the city. He successfully makes the journey to New York and finds himself immersed in the brisk theater lifestyle only to be (figuratively) drawn back to rural Tennessee over the care of his sick father.

Masterfully told, the story moves from page to page with ease, and though I tend to lean away from period pieces, this one has really stuck with me. The characters, the setting, the dialog, the mood--Schafron has pinned them down and twisted them into a story that delights and enchants.

Just as I wonder why I am bothering to find books to review from the tar pit of unedited, incomprehensible, trite, self-published works, I come across a book that saves the day. And this time it is A PORTION UNDER THE SUN. This slim novel is well worth the price ($11 over at Amazon) and will make a wonderful addition to your library.