GHOSTS ON BUFFALO CREEK (2004)
At first glance, Joyce Herndon Lackey's Ghosts on Buffalo Creek (Yarrow Press, 2004) doesn't look too appealing. The cover art, though a well-drawn sketch, seems to convey an overall feeling of melancholic tranquility. But, begin reading the novel and you'll discover why the cover is deftly appropriate.
Lackey's debut is the heart-wrenching story of a coal town and the disasters caused by the very thing that sustained the town's stability. Dulcie, the novel's main character, consistently struggles with the event, its outcomes, and its sway in the lives of people she knew. The characterization within is fairly well-balanced. Dulcie often interacts with a myriad amount of family members, ranging from her son to mother to ex-husband; the protagonist also relies on several confidants throughout the book, both male and female. The character of Dulcie is multi-faceted and we're able to gather a sense of her personality from each passage. In essence, Dulcie is the most remarkable character in the book.
Lackey presents a few characters that are almost paradoxical in nature. Dulcie's friend Tim is featured a great amount of the time, but I wanted a further exploration into his psyche. Similarly, Dulcie's longtime confidant Maggie is somewhat of a cardboard stronghold; why wasn't she developed more? On the whole, however, Lackey's characters are believable and the ones we're intended to like are likeable.
The plot is focused on the way Dulcie copes with the destruction of her town and its aftermath. It also focuses on certain elements of life, such as divorce, alcoholism, and the loss of family and friends. The novel moves at a nice pace, which makes the transitions subtle. In addition, the flow is absolute perfection; I never felt as if things were rushed or disjointed. Furthermore, Lackey's prose is beautifully crafted.
A few glaring printing errors will distract you from time-to-time, though, and some chapters should be condensed to form a more solid piece. Twenty-seven chapters in a 180-page book is a bit much.
Although the aforementioned problems will undeservedly garner your attention, Lackey's Ghosts on Buffalo Creek is most assuredly worth checking out, especially for the "bargain-bin" price. Hopefully, Lackey's forthcoming endeavor, God Loves Lucy, will be as enrapturing and emotive as this one.
To order Ghosts on Buffalo Creek, please visit Yarrow Press.
about the author
Indiana writer Jason Jordan has performed at the Old Louisville Coffeehouse and was the winner of Decomposition Magazine's first creative writing contest in July 2004 with his piece, Untitled.