Books: Smoky Legend

FAITH AND THE GOOD THING

by CHARLES JOHNSON

196 pages. Viking. $7.95.

This small, quick-witted novel about a Southern black girl's misadventures in Chicago is a tricky mixture of down-home storytelling and faculty-lounge chitchat. The storytelling is rich. The chitchat, consisting of philosophical jar gon in several languages, is rather brittle. The heroine, a rural Candide named Faith Cross, is told by her dying mother to find life's Good Thing. She seeks guidance from a swamp witch, a withered and warty old necromancer with one green and one yellow eye.

The swamp witch messes...

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