Sutter's Cross
W. Dale Cramer
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Sutter's Cross

W. Dale Cramer
Bethany House
416 pages
December 2002
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Sutter’s Cross is a small town nestled at the very foot of the Appalachian Mountains in rural Georgia. It’s sprinkled with a handful of the most endearing set of characters to grace any fiction page in a long while, and leaves an impact on the reader that, while pleasant, is also completely unexpected.

The citizens of Sutter’s Cross are what could be termed as very comfortable with their town, their lives and their expectations. Until, one day, at the annual fried chicken and potato potluck picnic held by Sutter’s Cross Community Church, a down-on-his-luck stranger appears in their midst. His appearance and the subtle affect his presence has on their lives during the ensuing summer and early fall leave a huge impact on its people and turns the town nearly upside down.

The story is told mainly through Jake Mahaffey, a local contractor. He and his wife, Lori, take an immediate liking to the drifter, who calls himself Harley, as does elderly Miss Agnes, who offers her home to him. Others aren’t so friendly or inclined to show Harley either friendship or compassion. Among them are Orde Wingo, the local Sunday school teacher, and Web Holcombe – the "Lord of Sutter’s Cross." Two young friends take a major role in the book, young Eddy "Three", Web Holcomb’s son, and his best friend/almost-brother, Marcus, both of whom are especially touched by the new stranger in town. Tales of greed, promise, disappointments and dangers riddle the plot, leading to a thoroughly stunning conclusion in this tale of hope and redemption.

Sutter's Cross is W. Dale Cramer’s debut novel, but such is hard to believe. Cramer utilizes a skill beyond that of most new authors, with his captivating characters, flawless plot, and thoroughly professional and honed narrative prose. The narrative reads very quickly, pulling the reader into the thoughts and emotions of the characters without obvious effort. His descriptions of the southern countryside are filled with sensory images that bring rural Georgia to vivid life, and his scenes involving the swollen and raging river which comes to play such an important part in the people populating this book is exquisite. This novel encompasses the reader in a gentle, purely Southern and charming embrace and doesn’t let go until the very last page. Even then, his characters swim around in your thoughts long after the book has been closed. This stunning author is certainly one to watch for in the future.

© 2003 by Denise M. Clark for Curled Up With a Good Book

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