Cover image for Sabbath Creek
Sabbath Creek
Mitcham, Judson.
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Publication Information:
Athens, Ga. : University of Georgia Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
169 pages ; 21 cm
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In his highly anticipated second novel, Judson Mitcham, with plain but elegant language, creates an emotional impact rivaled only by his critically acclaimed debut novel, The Sweet Everlasting (Georgia). Sabbath Creek is the story of Lewis Pope, a fourteen-year-old boy thrust into an adult world of heartache and brokenness. When his beautiful but distant mother takes him on an aimless journey through south Georgia, the cerebral and sensitive Lewis is forced to confront latent fears - scars left from the emotional abuse of an alcoholic father and the lack of comfort from a preoccupied mother - that crowd his interior world. At the heart of the journey, and the novel itself, is Truman Stroud, the cantankerous owner of the crumbling Sabbath Creek Motor Court, where Lewis and his mother are stranded after having car trouble. Lewis's budding friendship with the ninety-three-year-old black man is his only reprieve from the mysteries that haunt him. Despite his prickly personality and the considerable burden of his own personal tragedies, Stroud becomes the boy's best hope for a father figure, as he teaches Lewis the secrets of baseball and the secrets of life. Sabbath Creek is more than a coming-of-age novel. And while Mitcham provides a nuanced look at the relationship between a white adolescent boy and a black old-timer, his second novel transcends the tired theme of race relations in the South. This compassionate, smart, powerful work of fiction touches the pulse of the human spirit. It travels from the ruined landscape of south Georgia and takes us all the way through the ruined landscape of a broken heart.

Author Notes

Sabbath Creek is the story of Lewis Pope, a fourteen-year-old boy thrust into an adult world of heartache and brokenness. When his beautiful but distant mother takes him on an aimless journey through south Georgia, the cerebral and sensitive Lewis is forced to confront latent fears that crowd his interior world.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Stroud, a 93-year-old former semipro pitcher in the Negro Leagues who once knew Satchel Paige, means to help 14-year-old Lewis improve his fastball. If you don't have control, he says, it don't matter how much movement you got. It's prescient advice, applying as much to Lewis' life as to his pitching arm. Before their car broke down in Sabbath Creek, Georgia, stranding them at Stroud's shabby motel, Lewis and his mother had been drifting, on the run from his abusive dad. Lewis reflects upon their situation in lyrical, brooding vignettes, which show him finding companionship with and commiseration from the cantankerous but wise Stroud. The intergenerational and interracial (Lewis is white) polarities exploited here for comic and dramatic effect are a bit shopworn, and the concluding tragedy that jolts Lewis and his mother back into the groove of life is disappointingly melodramatic. Even so, Mitcham's resonant language will likely prove reward enough for fans of his fiction debut, The Sweet Everlasting (1996), as well as followers of his Pushcart Prize-winning poetry. --Jennifer Mattson Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

In Mitcham's masterfully drawn, emotionally rich gem of a second novel (after The Sweet Everlasting), 14-year-old Lewis Pope is caught in the middle of a dangerous family crisis. While attempting to run away from his abusive father, Lewis and his frightened mother drive aimlessly for days through southern Georgia, unsure where to go or what to do. Their car breaks down in the sleepy backwater of Sabbath Creek, and they end up stranded at a ramshackle hotel owned by a 93-year-old black man named Truman Stroud. Stroud is a grand fictional creation-cranky, sarcastic, and full of genuine human warmth. A great deal happens during the weeks of their stay, leading to a deeply affecting friendship among Stroud, Lewis, and his mother. Mitcham brings vividly to life the rural community of Sabbath Creek, and he handles the emotional and psychological complexities of this story with remarkable subtlety. He also has important things to say about the redemptive power of human kindness and friendship. A powerfully realized, deeply satisfying novel; enthusiastically recommended.-Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



He slammed down the hood, then elbowed me out of the way, trailing an odor of old sweat and cigars and loud cologne soured in his clothes. He told my mother he would order the part, but it might not arrive for a week or even longer. She asked him if Sabbath Creek had a place where we could stay."Not really." He squinted at her and scratched under his arm and leaned closer. "There is this place down the road, maybe a mile out of town, old nigger place, but you and your boy don't want to stay there."My mother took a deep breath as if to speak, but she did not. We pulled our bags out of the trunk and climbed into the cab of the tow truck-a tight fit since the man weighed maybe three hundred pounds, and I was big for my age. At nearly fourteen, I was almost the same size I am now, ten years later. My mother sat crushed against the door; she locked it, and she pulled back on the handle as we rode.The Sabbath Creek Motor Court resembled a chickenhouse reconceived as a motel-a long low strip of rooms, most of the windows broken out, the roof charred at the far end, wires sticking up like frizzy hair, no cars parked outside.The man drove away, leaving us standing at the door where OFFICE had fallen off and left the outline of the letters. My mother pushed the doorbell button, waited, pushed it again. She knocked on the door, and it swung open; she pulled it shut, then knocked again, louder, and she opened the door and shouted hello.She stepped inside, and I followed her. The dim room, lit only by a small floor lamp, smelled damp and poisonous. There was a closed door on the other side of the counter, and she walked around and knocked again."Hey!" she yelled. "You've got customers."I sat on the sofa, which enveloped me in its broken springs and moldy stink, and after a few more tries my mother came over, and the ruined couch swallowed her as well, and we waited there.***We heard a door thump shut, then the sound of a car driving off, and a moment later an old man came through the door, a tall, thin, dark-skinned black man wearing a baseball cap, tennis shoes, brown work pants, and a white shirt buttoned at the collar. The little bit of hair showing under his cap was as white as the shirt."Uh oh," he said when he saw us. "Y'all work for the sheriff?"He performed a jerky little shuffle-step as he crossed the room to the counter, where he set down a large brown paper bag."No, sir," my mother said. "We . . .""Do I have the right to remain silent?""Well, no. You see, our car broke down . . .""No?" the man said. "You mean I got to keep talking? Can anything I say be used against me?""Look," she said, "we just need a room. Is that possible?""Say you need a room? All right then, all right. That's good. We got you a room."My mother explained that we might need it for a few days, since our car had broken down and was being repaired."Repaired? Where at?""A place back in town," she said. "What was the name? Coleman's?""Colem Excerpted from Sabbath Creek by Judson Mitcham All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.