'Pug Sheridan' proves herself to be a lively protagonist and a sure-footed storyteller in a compelling coming-of-age chronicle set in turn-of-the-century rural Alabama. At the outset, Pug looks back upon the decade that will form her narrative and begins her tale with trepidation: "The man I shot had friends whose hearts and minds remain as closed as his once was. It has become my habit to listen for footsteps behind me in the dark...As I stir the smouldering ashes of the past, I can feel the searing heat on my face." Here is a first-person voice that is both sassy and poetic. Pug's 'confession' builds, inexorably, toward what appears to be a justified homicide. Pug forms indelible friendships with six extraordinary young women who dub their taboo multi-ethnic sorority 'The Secret Society of the Seven Sisters'. They are menaced one Halloween night by six drunken, delinquent boys who grow up to form the core of the local, resurgent Ku Klux Klan.
The fearful asymmetry between these groups and their ideologies -- one female, the other male, one progressive, the other reactionary, one representing inclusiveness, the other prejudice and hatred -- produces much of the novel's considerable tension without descending to male-bashing. While remaining uplifting, 'Pug Sheridan' is written in a magical realist mode filled with cosmic ironies and mysterious synchronies, often highlighted with supernatural overtones. Emphasis is laid on the premise that life is a mystical journey; it's all about choices -- individual and cultural. Yet, if the story is informed, perhaps indirectly, by the influence of Garcia Marquez or Toni Morrison, it also draws upon some of the archetypal plot conventions of the Victorian novel, making for a unique blending of disparate influences. A page-turner with a rapid pulse, 'Pug Sheridan' will be treasured by readers of all ages.