Cover image for Land where my fathers died
Land where my fathers died
Morris, Joe Edward.
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Publication Information:
New York : Context Books, 2002.
Physical Description:
346 pages ; 24 cm
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Just weeks before his release from prison for a murder he didnt commit, Jo Shelby Ferguson loses his only remaining relatives in a highway accident. When hes released from jail, he inherits an old trunk containing preCivil War family possessions. Among the artifacts are several bundles of letters written by his great-great-great-grandmother chronicling the familys flight to Mexico with General Jo Shelby of Missouri following the collapse of the Confederacy. With only 40 dollars in his pocket and a note containing the name of a hacienda, Jo Shelby the younger strikes out for Mexico, following the same route as his namesake. This absorbing road novel about one man's search for identity was a semifinalist in the 1998 Pirates Alley Faulkner Prizes for Fiction.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

A young man leaves his Mississippi home to search for his family's legacy in 1950s Mexico in Morris's powerful but derivative debut novel, which echoes Cormac McCarthy's The Crossing in both style and story line. After serving six years for a murder he didn't commit, Jo Shelby Ferguson returns to the plantation town where he used to live and where he has a job offer from the plantation owner as well as romantic opportunity with the man's daughter. But when he discovers a collection of letters written by his great-great-grandmother, chronicling the Mexican adventures of his namesake, a 19th-century general whose "new little south" colony was destroyed by the Juaristas in 1866, he decides to journey to Mexico to find the hacienda that the letters promised would be the family's refuge. He's imprisoned again, though, when the Mexican police discover him carrying a family artifact, an ancient ball-and-powder gun that doesn't even fire. Ferguson's battle to outlast the brutal Mexican prison authorities is a familiar story, but he receives some intriguing assistance from a fellow inmate named Ramon Garcia, a former professor and landowner who helps arrange his freedom and then steers him toward a meeting with Garcia's mother and his beautiful daughter, both of whom help Ferguson in his quest. That quest makes for a truly memorable literary journey, with Morris combining a strong plot with first-rate characters and some elegiac writing about the link between families, the land and its history. The parallels to McCarthy are so noticeable that they rob the book of its uniqueness, but Morris's obvious talent shines through from start to finish. (May) Forecast: With a 50,000-copy first printing, a $50,000 marketing budget and a 20-city author tour, Context is pulling out all the stops for this debut. Morris has exceptional promise, and a sophomore effort less beholden to McCarthy could earn him much praise. Southern readers will recognize Morris as the former host of the talk show The Doctor Is In, while literary magazine fans will know his name from the Delta Review and other publications. This title has the potential to be Context's biggest book to date. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

First novelist Morris, a Mississippi pastor-turned-psychologist who also writes poetry and short stories, tells a poignant tale of a young man's search for identity. In 1954, Jo Shelby Ferguson is released from a Mississippi prison after a six-year incarceration during which his parents and grandfather died, leaving him a trunk filled with family memorabilia. Taking from the trunk only pictures, letters sent by his great-great-grandmother from Mexico, and an antique Navy Colt, Jo Shelby strikes out for Mexico in search of the family he has never met. The journey is a patchwork of good times and bad, including travels through idyllic country and touching stories of good deeds and friendships, as well as a month in a Mexican jail and many encounters with crooked law officers and petty criminals. This beautifully upbeat and enduring novel is recommended for all ages, especially in areas with large Hispanic populations. Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.