If you’ve ever tasted the after-rain clay dirt on a Kansas summer afternoon, or if you’ve ever secretly wanted to, you may understand why I was often tempted to eat a stick of chalk. It held the smell of that clay dirt.
In Rattlebone, Maxine Clair introduces us to Irene Wilson. Irene knows that a ‘no-name invisible something’ has settled over her parents’ marriage, and suspects her glamorous new teacher is to blame. In the town of Rattlebone, a small Black neighbourhood of Kansas City, secrets are hard to keep and growing up is a community affair. As Irene is initiated into adult passion and loss, her family story takes its place in a tightly woven tapestry of individuals whose griefs and joys are as vivid as her own.
Through the strong smells of manure and bacon wafting downriver from the stockyards, roadhouses playing the latest jazz and radios at Union Hall broadcasting warnings to the low-lying communities along the rivers, Maxine Clair has captured an entire world through the eyes of its unforgettable heroine. Rattlebone is a minor classic and a triumph of American fiction.
‘A small, perfectly formed classic. . . . It deserves to be widely read, a set text, cherished.’ Observer
‘I read Rattlebone when it was first published in 1994. I loved it then, and all these years later I love it more.’ Ann Patchett