A Distant Shore by Caryl Phillips

By Caryl Phillips

Dorothy is a retired schoolteacher who has lately moved to a housing property in a small village. Solomon is a night-watchman, an immigrant from an unnamed nation in Africa. each one is determined for romance. And but each one harbors secrets and techniques that can make achieving it impossible.

With breathtaking insurance and compassion, Caryl Phillips retraces the trails that lead Dorothy and Solomon to their assembly aspect: her failed marriage and ruinous obsession with a more youthful guy, the horrors he witnessed as a soldier in his disintegrating place of birth, and the cruelty he encounters as a stranger in his new one. Intimate and panoramic, measured and shattering, Shore charts the oceanic expanses that separate humans from their houses, their hearts, and their selves.

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Gangrenous molds took to the foundations before the roofs were fairly nailed down. Mud crept up their sides and paint fell away in long white slashes. Some terrible plague seemed to overtake them one by one. They were rented to families of gaunt hollow-eyed and darkskinned people, not Mellungeons and not exactly anything else, who reproduced with such frightening prolificness that their entire lives appeared devoted to the production of the ragged line of scions which shoeless and tattered sat for hours at a time on the porch edges, themselves not unlike the victims of some terrible disaster, and stared out across the blighted land with expressions of neither hope nor wonder nor despair.

The drinkers would pause, liquid tilting in their glasses, the structure would shudder violently, a broom would fall, a bottle, and the inn would slowly right itself and assume once more its normal reeling equipoise. The drinkers would raise their glasses, talk would begin again. Remarks alluding to the eccentricities of the inn were made only outside the building. To them the inn was animate as any old ship to her crew and it bred an atmosphere such as few could boast, a solidarity due largely to its very precariousness.

You’ns get in here. We goin to Knoxville, proud to hep ye out. Sylder presented them each with a welcoming smile as they climbed in and studied each in turn his face under the domelight. He dropped into the Hopper—the steep twin fork road—without braking. The little one between him and Tipton squealed once and then hushed with her hand clapped over her mouth as they swerved across the pike and shot out into blackness, the lights slapping across the upper reaches of trees standing sharply up the side of the hollow.

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