During the past week, I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of one of the best books that I’ve read in a long time, “That He May Raise” by Armond Boudreaux.
Scheduled to be released on July 20 by Livingston Press at the University of West Alabama, this collection of loosely connected short stories takes an interesting look at the ways in which our actions – good and bad – echo down through the years. Boudreaux skillfully leads his readers into the lives of his characters, warts and all, and looks at how their sins and suffering sometimes leads to redemption.
This 209-page book was also highly entertaining and contains a lot that will interest a wide variety of readers. It’s got everything from wild hog hunting to snake handlers to poetry readings to Catholic confessional booths. It’s funny in parts, creepy in parts and so engrossing that, at times, I forgot that I was even reading a book.
Many of you will also enjoy the book because much of it is set in Alabama, which should come as no surprise since Boudreaux is a native of Thomasville. The book opens in Jackson County, which is located in northeast Alabama near the borders of Tennessee and Georgia. Later in the book, an entire chapter is set in the fictional community of Landon, which is said to be located in the northeast corner of Monroe County, which puts it pretty close to Conecuh County.
Many of you will also want to get a copy of this book because its cover was designed by former Lenox resident Josh Dewberry, who is known throughout this part of world for his work as an award-winning writer and photographer at The Monroe Journal newspaper in Monroeville. Boudreaux took the photo featured on the cover of the book, and Dewberry was responsible for designing the cover. The book has a very slick look to it, and while it’s said that you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, I think it’s more than OK to do so in this case.
This book is so good that it was named the runner-up winner of the 10th Annual Tartt First Fiction Award. This prestigious award is given annually in memory of Works Project Administration writer Ruby Pickens Tartt, who collected slave narratives in Alabama. Having read “That He May Raise,” I want to read the overall winner, “Two Legs, Bad” by Pat Mayer, because if Mayer’s book was judged to be better than Boudreaux’s outstanding book, it must really be something.
As mentioned, Boudreaux is a native of Thomasville and he was especially suited to write this book. He attended Alabama Southern Community College and the University of West Alabama, and he later earned his Ph.D. at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers. Currently, Boudreaux lives with his wife and four children in Georgia, where he is an English professor at East Georgia State College in Swainsboro.
In the end, I highly recommend “That He May Raise,” especially to those of you in the audience who enjoy a really good book. Also, Boudreaux is a young writer, so I suspect that there will be even more books of his to follow in the years to come. If those books are anywhere close to being as good as “That He May Raise,” then we’ve got a lot to look forward to.