Review by Richard Beesley.This book is simply stunning. The evocative language, the writing style, the descriptions. The characters jump off the page, and you can see, hear, sense and smell them. The landscape emerges and engulfs you, and the river, swamp and forest fill your senses. Beautifully written, Southern Cross The Dog by Bill Cheng is set in Mississippi from 1927, following the story of Robert Chatham, an eight-year-old African-American boy whose family lose everything in the Great Flood.
Jumping from 1927 to 1932 to 1941 and back, we see the difficulties and struggles that Robert and his family face. Throughout these years, he encounters a range of dangerous people and situations, from the ex-con turned musician turned preacher, to the trappers, to the crews reclaiming the swampland, to the racist thugs he encounters.
The American south at that time is different to the world we are used to, but the descriptions of every scene are so clear that the reader can really see and feel it.
There are a number of characters that are seen several times throughout the book, and recurring patterns of dangerous encounters and destructive behaviours. But the overall theme is one of choice. Choices that Robert must make between right and wrong, faith and fate, the past and the future.
If you are looking for an easy read and a happy ending, this might not be your first choice. But if you are after a gripping and beautifully written book with complex characters and more complex themes, then this might be just what you are looking for.
Southern Cross The Dog, by Bill Cheng, is published by PanMacmillan and is available from their website.
Disclosure: Pan Macmillan sent me this book to keep for the purposes of review. All opinions are our own.