Books: This Old House FAMILY LINEN by Lee Smith


Punishment is merciless for writers of novels that ring in the mind. Unsophisticated readers demand the same bells next time, only louder. Sophisticated readers pretend they do not want an encore, although they really do, and they are vigilant in condemning repetition.

So Lee Smith has reason to fear. Her new novel follows such a bell ringer, a haunting and resonant story of Appalachia called Oral History (1983). Family Linen uses the same narrative technique: members of a troubled clan are revealed directly to the reader, one by one, in contrasting chapters.

This time the family whose strangely assorted Linen hangs...

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