Water Street
Crystal E. Wilkinson
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Water Street

Crystal E. Wilkinson
Toby Press
175 pages
August 2002
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Water Street is neat, a neighborhood where grandmothers still quilt and men still wear farmer’s clothing “though they are one generation removed from farming.” On Water Street “we love being close to the people we’ve known since we entered the world. And we hate it.”

A place where Reverend Townsend might find himself courting Ariel, “one of the church’s finest,” and she knows she will make him a good wife and secretly longs for his carnal embrace.

Where a young man testing his “man pants” fears he may be the twin of his father, who chose whores over his mother and desertion over family. “You ask the right person and they’d probably say I’m an alcoholic. You ask me and I’d say I’m a brotha who has potential. Never too late.”

Where “we were plain old Kentucky boys but all of us had hair that stood out around our heads like halos - we were learning how to be black people and proud.”

“On Water Street, every person has two stories to tell.” Crystal Wilkinson is the midwife who births these stories, like “The Sixteen Confessions of Lois Carter”, white and married to Roscoe, who is black. “At the onset their smiles are wide, remembering my folks and Carter’s Grocery, but just as soon as they recognize me as the one who did that, their smiles drop.”

In her second book, Crystal Wilkinson makes her mark through her memories. Her stories have the scent of summers in Kentucky where “we are almost Southern and not northern at all,” and it’s easy to get to know “the mother with octopus arms” and the “husband who was spending his nights with Honey.” They live on Water Street and in our neighborhood, too.

The stories interconnect, not quite a novel but something on a grander scale than a mere collection of tales. The reader looks for more news from Water Street.

© 2003 by Barbara Bamberger Scott for Curled Up With a Good Book

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