Adele Elliott is the author of two novels: Friendship Cemetery, published by Crooked Cat Publishing, and Witch Ball, published by Open Books.
“Witch Ball” is a fictional novel set in the very real city of Columbus, Mississippi. It is told from the point of view of GERTRUDE “TRULY” MOORE. Truly is a high-school student at loose ends, on summer vacation from school.
She loves to spend time with her great aunt, Fleur, a larger than life, quirky old lady. AUNT FLEUR has recently returned to Columbus after many years of living in other cities. Now, back in her home town, she has created her own persona. She makes a living selling “Accessorines,” accessories for figurines. She also dabbles in magic charms.
It won’t take astute readers long to realize that Aunt Fleur is transgendered. The townspeople may not be that perceptive, but they know she is “different,” a sin in this “Buckle of the Bible Belt.” Many people suspect that Aunt Fleur is a witch.
Truly has a crush on ERIC ALEXANDER, a college boy who works at the library. Her parents, KAY AND TOMMY, are disturbed to learn of their daughter’s friendship with a boy that they consider “not their sort.”
Kay and Tommy harbor a long-standing bitterness against Eric’s parents that is rooted in high-school heartbreak. But, there was something else. Ruby (Eric’s mother) was raised by CLEMENTINE, a black cleaning-lady who had worked in Kay’s childhood home. Races do not mix well in Columbus. Although, Ruby was perceived as being white, adopted as an infant, the stigma of her black “mother” was a source of prejudice.
The serenity of the town’s summer is shattered by the murder of a respected high school track coach, LEWIS RUSSELL. As the murder becomes more difficult to solve, a witch hunt begins.
Columbus is a city where “sameness” is expected. Everyone is Christian, for the most part Baptist. Anyone offbeat is viewed as strange. It is a place that thrives on gossip. The rumors began flying. Could a kooky old lady also be a murderer? In this town, it doesn’t matter what is true, it only matters what everyone believes.
Of course, the murder is solved. (You knew it wasn’t Aunt Fleur.)
Truly sees Eric differently from her original impression – less attractive. Eric reveals himself as homophobic, and perhaps even a bit boring.
There are two themes to the book. One is the idea that we can create our own reality, and our identity. Aunt Fleur altered her gender and her persona. She helps her great-niece to evolve from Gertrude into Truly.
There is a more important cautionary message advising us to be careful who we deify, or vilify. Demons may not have pointy horns and tails, and angels may not have wings.
“Friendship Cemetery” is the story of Emma Grace, a naive teen, whose perception of truth is limited by her youth and upbringing in the very sheltered world of Columbus, Mississippi. She longs for a message from her dead father, and the acceptance of her distant and critical mother.
Emma may be unsophisticated, but she is witty and funny, with biting observations about Columbus. The city is as much a character in the novel as are the people.
The story begins with her desire to become a ghost hunter. To this end Emma spends time in the cemetery. However, she is not alone. In Friendship Cemetery she meets Princess Kamara (a dwarf), and Tyrone (a young African-American boy).
Emma’s father slipped into the Mississippi River eight months before this novel begins. Her mother, Lenora Leigh, bid him good-bye with great fanfare at a memorial service, even though there was no body.
Princess Kamara spends her time creating quirky, folk art “sculptures” from detritus found in the cemetery. Pea (her nickname) has been even less exposed to the world than Emma. However, she is perceptive and quite comical in her actions and responses to new experiences.
Both mothers reveal disappointment with their daughters. Emma cannot dress to her mother’s “Southern belle chic” standards. Pea’s mother, Olive Shelton, has hidden her from the eyes and gossip of this town. She is consumed with love for her deceased husband, Dwayne.
Tyrone fears Kamara because he claims that her family is cursed. A hurt leg leads him to introduce Emma to Althee, a healer-woman. From Althee, we learn that there is a curse on the Shelton family.
Emma, Kamara, and another friend, Beau, concoct an elaborate plot to spend the night in Friendship Cemetery in an effort to find ghosts. All does not go well. They are discovered, and must face public embarrassment, the worst thing possible in the eyes of Emma’s mother.
Emma’s mother has also been keeping secrets. However, secrets are impossible to keep. All will be revealed.
The main theme of “Friendship Cemetery” is that truth is limited by perception and experience. In the beginning of the novel, Emma believes Pea to be a leprechaun, which she is not.
It is also about acceptance. Pea’s defects are obvious – a physical deformity. Others’ are more subtle. Flaws such as superficiality, blind judgment, and false superiority are less apparent, but still corrosive.
“Friendship Cemetery” will appeal to adult readers and mature teens. There is no graphic sex or violence.
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