Heir to the Everlasting

Heir to the Everlasting

Janice Daugharty

$18.95 February 2011
ISBN 978-1-935661-92-4

An epic story of three generations of Southern women

Our PriceUS$18.95
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

The Pulitzer-nominated author of EARL IN THE YELLOW SHIRTturns her acclaimed talents to an epic story of three generations of Southern women at Big Eddy, the home place they love. HEIR TO THE EVERLASTING begins at the turn of the last century with the beautiful, determined Pinkie Alexander, strong-willed matron of the Alexander clan. Come Hell or the high water of the south Georgia river which gave Big Eddy its name, Pinkie will ensure the survival of her family on their beloved land—a place where the family cemetery guards the spirit of the past, and where secrets, as well as the dearly departed, are buried.

Follow the lives, loves, mysteries, deadly feuds and steely courage of the Alexander women through a full century of joys and sorrows. HEIR TO THE EVERLASTING showcases the culture, language and daily travails of their time and place with vivid storytelling skills and Janice Daugharty's love for "the working words.”

"Janice Daugharty is a born storyteller.” ~Joyce Carol Oates

"Janice Daugharty is a natural-born writer, one of those Georgia women like O'Connor, McCullers, or Siddons who are best grown in small towns, a long way from city lights. There is a lot of red clay and long nights in every line she puts on paper.” ~Pat Conroy

Janice Daugharty's 1997 novel, EARL IN THE YELLOW SHIRT, (HarperCollins) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She is the author of seven acclaimed novels and two short story collections. She serves as writer-in-residence at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, in Tifton, Georgia.

Visit the author at http://www.janicedaugharty.com/


"...beautifully rich characters and story." -- Mandy O'Brien, Living Peacefully with Children

"It's rich and delicious in the way that it catches you up and satisfies you.  I hated to have it end, and it has stuck with me for days.  Truly a classic from an inspiring author." -- Jennifer Turney, Mean Old Library Teacher

"Janice Daugharty skillfully tells the story of three generations of Alexander women who love the land...She captures the personalities of the people not only in the major characters but in some of the less prominent ones. " -- Trilla Pando, Story Circle Book Reviews

"Heir to the Everlasting celebrates strong Southern women and their bonds. " --Ellen Keith, August issue of The Historical Novels Review


This was the long and short of it, how Little May's life began as an actual, physical hand-me-down, but how with a lot of iron-bending on her part it wouldn't end up that way.

Pinkie Alexander drew the new black surrey up level with the courthouse porch. Then she handed her drawstring bag to the little girl seated on the bench next to her. "Here, Hon, you can carry this for Grandmother.” It had beads like ticks and was heavy with the pistol inside.

A man on the porch hurried to help her down. Another man came and took hold of her horse. The train of her cream and pink flower-print dress crawled off the surrey behind her. Then the little girl, in her shadow like always and why some referred to her as Little Pinkie when her real name was May. Her grown uncles even told her she looked like her grandmother, but that was just to make her feel good about dragging pillar to post after her mother Minnie died of malaria and Pinkie took her to raise. Like Minnie, May never would be anything to look at.

People were watching from the porch and cows were watching from the courtyard, chewing in the oak shade like they'd do in the mornings at Big Eddy. A yellow mama cow walked off like she'd seen enough and the other cows followed and their shadows shed off their sides and followed too.

Down a side street behind the courtyard drummers and regular strangers were standing along the porch railings of the two-story hotel. Waiting with their suitcases for the stagecoach to come by, they watched too. It was as though the whole world had heard about what went on at Big Eddy and they had come to see if Maureen would kill Pinkie, or the other way around. Would Pinkie and May take Jack home with them, or would the law hang him in the courtyard, come end of the day?

Sometimes, May knew the answers, sometimes she didn't. This time nothing was coming to her.

She had been born with a double veil, meaning there had been two layers of skin encasing the birthsack. Meaning, according to an old wives tale, she would be a prophet of death. Her dreams of death, they said, would come true.

Pinkie had forbidden such talk, said she didn't want to hear another thing about this "prophet of death” nonsense.

But death ever much on May's mind anyway, since her mother had died, she kept a running tally of the dead in the graveyard at Big Eddy: Minnie, plus Granddaddy Samuel Alexander, plus a baby named Zillie, made three people.

Maureen's husband Rafe would have made four, by May's accounting, but they didn't bury him there because he wasn't really family. Rafe was a sharecropper May's granddaddy had ordered from Market Bulletin along with a new variety of seed corn. This mail-order man came and stayed after marrying Maureen, who used to be Samuel's pet cook and housekeeper at Big Eddy. Anyway, Rafe wouldn't have been buried on the Alexander homeplace because it was May's littlest uncle, Pinkie and Samuel's boy, who shot him and grandmother and granddaughter were here at the courthouse because of that.

Going up the courthouse steps, May could feel the pistol in the bag knocking against her kneecaps. The people on the porch parted for Pinkie like she was the queen of England. Her silk dress made a whispery sound and smelled like violets when she moved. She didn't look scared to May. Maybe she'd gotten over it or was playing brave or had recovered what she referred to as her balance.

That morning, all the way from Big Eddy to Alexander Crossing, named after the family, she'd been saying over and over how everything would be all right, for May not to worry. She told her not to ask questions, to keep her chin up and her dress tail down and stay close. Everything she said came undone when she stopped the surrey just outside of Alexander Crossing for little May to pee, then took the pistol from under the seat and slipped it in her bag.

"How come we're taking the pistol?” May asked. "How come I can't ask questions?”

"Just say yessum, Hon, and hush now,” she said.

"How you, Pinkie?” A man tipped his hat to Pinkie. A smoking pipe stuck out from his grin.

"Good, and you?”

"Pinkie,” greeted another man wearing a hard black suit.

"Morning, Lawyer Burkholt.” She set off walking beside her lawyer, through the open double doors.

Usually, she called him Adam. May knew him as her grandmother's best friend, in the same way that Maureen was her best enemy.

Everybody walked in behind Pinkie and May, crowding the child so that she almost stepped on her grandmother's dress tail. She started to pick up the hem to cover her face—a bad habit in a tight—and stayed close. She needed to be by herself. She needed to smell the violets and not the tobacco and trapped heat of a crowd. Everybody's shoes but Pinkie's and May's tapped eager and quick on the floorboards. To May it sounded like cows trying to crowd each other out to get a place at the feed trough.

Making her way up the stairs, May set her eyes on her grandmother's back, her tee-tiny waist and then her shirred lace overskirt as she stepped up. Two men were walking each side of May and their wooly suits made her itch. It seemed that nobody could see her, because she was so little, just seven, same age as her uncle, Jack, Pinkie's baby. Her grandmother always out-shined everybody. She had long black wavy hair that, when she brushed it, she had to part in back and swing the halves of hair over her shoulders; May's hair was thin and the muddy color of sugar-cane juice. Pinkie was like a light in a dark room. Jack said his mother wasn't all that good-looking to him, but he guessed she was holding up okay for a wore out old woman. Being a good hand to figure, he worked out her age. She was seventeen when she got married and that was around 1887, which would put her at around forty years old now in 1910.

Pinkie had took to calling Jack "my baby” the day the sheriff came out to get him for shooting Maureen's husband dead. May guessed she did that to point out the fact that Jack was just a child and didn't belong to be going to jail. May thought it was a thousand wonders she hadn't shot that sheriff dead too. Everybody knew since Samuel died how Pinkie would fly off the handle with anybody who messed with May or her boys. The way May figured it, her boys could shoot anybody they wanted to at Big Eddy. She was the boss. But from what May could gather, that was why her grandmother wouldn't let her two grown boys come to the courthouse They might shoot somebody off from home. They could shoot at bottles till the boss got back.

In the room at the top of the courthouse, Pinkie took a seat at a table up front next to Adam. She picked May up and set her on the table facing her, May supposed so that she could see anybody slipping up behind her. Then she straightened her lacy white skirt and took the bead bag and placed it on May's lap. There May sat, shame-faced, looking out at all the people coming in and sitting in the wood pews either side of the tall room. She was the eyes in back of her grandmother's head. The room smelled like May's bedroom when she had the measles but was more light because of all those door-size open windows. A sparrow side-stepping along one of the windowsills seemed to be watching with her.

At the other table, to the right of the one where May sat, Maureen and her two grown boys propped their elbows, leaning heads and whispering. They used to live down past the cotton house at Big Eddy till Pinkie got enough of Rafe and Maureen's boys laying up and not working and stealing everything wasn't nailed down, she said. She had let them make a nervous wreck out of her. That's what her mother, Granny Baxter, said. From what May could gather, listening in, Pinkie had had too much dumped on her since Samuel died: her only daughter dying, two more children to raise, women running their mouths about her because she was a widow and might be eyeballing their men; other men trying to hoodoo her out of her land and money. And now this thing with Jack

May didn't know why Pinkie wouldn't let Granny Baxter come that morning. She wasn't ailing, and she sure didn't carry a gun. In fact, she was the one always preaching to her daughter about her letting her boys carry pistols. Granny Baxter said the pistols were inviting trouble and besides they were a dead give-away that Pinkie was feeling weak with Samuel dead and not there to provide for them and scare the boogers off.

May counted five clabber-faced ladies in sack-cloth dresses like Maureen's walking up the aisle with their heads hung and white handkerchiefs balled in their fists and black bibles down by their sides. They followed one after the other along the bench behind Maureen and her boys, stopped and loved her neck and patted her on the shoulder before they sat down. She nodded, nodded, that tight knot of hair on back of her head going up and down like a yoyo. The other ladies had yoyo hair balls on back of their heads too.

These were the ladies from Maureen's church, the same ones who came with Maureen to Big Eddy a while back to pray over Pinkie's soul, naming off a list of her sins. She made them pray out on the porch and it rainy and cold while she and May watched from the front window of the room everybody still called Samuel's. Then the cook, Fate, got a broom after them. Told them to save their praying for their own selves. She said if Maureen needed a little help recollecting her sins, she'd be more than happy to help out.

Behind May, at the front of the courtroom, a gruff man cleared his throat and said, "All rise.”

Everybody stood up but May.

Her grandmother's pointy chin tilted up, to show she wouldn't back down, she would have the straight of this matter and get on with her business of operating Big Eddy, and everybody else could get on with theirs—if they had any business worth doing. Which she doubted. Taking up her time with such foolishness. Ridiculous, a little boy charged with murder!

Her face was pale as cream with curtains of wavy black hair. Her eyes were stark blue and didn't even blink.

May started swinging her feet. The bag slid from her lap to the floor, a loud whunk. Her grandmother seemed not to pay it any mind, but when the man behind May said everybody could be seated, Pinkie sat and reached for the bag and placed it on May's lap again and hooked the drawstring around the wrist of her writing hand.

Like somebody May had thought up come to life, Jack walked around from behind her and sat scooched down in the chair next to his mother so both feet would touch the floor. He had on a man-style black suit, but in his own size, a black string tie and a white shirt. Pinkie kissed the top of his head and a woman behind her said, "How sweet!”

"Ruint if you ask me.” The woman beside her crossed her arms and looked away like the very sight of them all made her sick to her stomach. "Boy or not, he's a rascal. What comes of her taking up for him and the rest of them when they get in trouble. Mark my words, he won't do a day in the pen. Whole bunch's run wild since Samuel Alexander died and it's her to blame.”

So, May's little uncle was there because he might turn out like his big brothers; he was on trial for murder, at only seven years old, to get back at Pinkie for being strong enough to take over, and for taking up for them in their mischief.

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