In Edge of the Wind, author James E. Cherry develops a taut thriller that goes behind the headlines of hostage-taking and mental illness.
Alexander van der Pool is a young man with schizophrenia who is obsessed with poetry. Alexander is an African-American man living in rural Tennessee and Cherry takes on the issues of race and class as he challenges how society manages mental illness.
Years ago, Alexander felt ridiculed and dismissed during a poetry class at Stovall State Community College. When Cherry introduces him, he is a confused young man with a court date because of a violent offense. Cherry captures the chaos, mania and randomness that mark illness. The dominant voice that talks to Alexander is Tobi. Cherry deftly weaves their conversation in and out of the story.
Instead of preparing for court, Alexander returns to Stovall State and seizes a literature class as he seeks validation of his poetry. His actions trigger a cascade of events that bring together a collection of characters who bring life to the fictional town of Stovall, Tenn.
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The default reaction to mental illness in this country is often criminalization, and Alexander’s family — his mother, stepfather and sister — are trying to get him medical assistance as he spirals out of control. At the same time, they seem reluctant to admit the extent of Alexander’s illness.
Meanwhile the county sheriff, who has found himself somewhat obsolete in an ever-changing society, has to negotiate a hostage situation in a media pressure cooker.
Cherry’s storytelling is rich with strong imagery, vivid details and realistic dialogue that make Edge of the Wind a page turner.
Jean Marie Brown, Special to the Star-Telegram
Edge of the Wind
☆☆☆☆☆ (out of five)
- By James E. Cherry
- Stephen F. Austin Press, $18