|The story, as told by Max, begins with the funeral of his great aunt, Ophelia, who he secretly calls “Aunt Catfish.” The ninety-something-year-old Ophelia is killed in an automobile accident with a logging truck, and Reddick (along with Max) manages to take the reader on the same twisting southern backroads that stretch from the funeral and Max’s south Georgia past to his present career as the general manager of a downtown Nashville hotel.
Although Reddick gives a pleasing shoutout to Music City, the most amusing guts of the novel dwell on Max’s childhood among the Spanish moss, pecan orchards and family Peacocks in the small south Georgia town of Pavo.
After a new vice president is hired at the hotel where Max works, he and his schoolteacher wife Jaden begin to ponder, and then plan, their escape from Nashville, hopefully back to the welcoming arms of their hometown where they can spend the rest of their lives and raise their family. Along the way, we’re introduced to a colorful line-up of relatives and characters ranging from the legacy of Aunt Helen, an unofficial fortune teller, who is committed to the mental hospital in Milledgeville, and Max’s cousin Doug, a drug-taking, alcoholic-turned-religious convert (after shooting up his mama’s house trying to kill an invisible little man), to the husband-killing Mrs. Yates, who has her romantic sights set on the new preacher at the Baptist church. There are some dark moments in the book, ranging from murder to grim family secrets, but Reddick skillfully blends them with the lighter “Southerness,” so that the darkness doesn’t cloud the story over and bog it down.
He also throws in real-life references and settings. For example, on their drive back to Nashville from South Georgia, Max and Jaden stop in and have a sandwich at the Calhoun, Georgia Cracker Barrel, just off the Interstate 75 exit in North Georgia. In real life, that particular Cracker Barrel serves some of the best catfish in Georgia every Friday night.
The novel is a romp through the backwoods of the South’s past and the promise of its future, and it reads like a weekend visit with your favorite kinfolks, during which you and your cousin drive around stirring up the mud from the past and dishing the dirt on the present town and its inhabitants. It’s familiar Southern territory, and you’ll find yourself laughing at, and rooting for, Max Peacock, his wife, their family and their friends.