For forty years Aurilla Cutter has tended a clutch of secrets that have turned her mean, and imprinted the lives of her daughter Berta Mae, son-in-law Clayton, and others in her small world. A freak car accident becomes the catalyst for the release of the passions, needs, and hurts in everyone touched by Aurilla’s hidden past. Clayton’s discovery of dead Donald Ray upends his longtime emotional numbness. Darlene, the seventeen-year-old widow, struggles to reconnect with her late husband while proving herself still alive. Soon Clayton and Darlene’s bond of loss and death works its magic, drawing them into an affair that brings the loneliness in Clayton and Berta Mae’s marriage to crisis. When Aurilla learns about the affair, her own memories of longing and infidelity are set loose. Like Darlene’s–unappeased and clung to—they possess an intensity that denies life to the present. As Aurilla’s forbidden and tragic story of love, death, and repeated loss alternates with Darlene’s, the divide of generations and time narrows and collapses, building to the unlikely collision of the two women’s yearnings, which free them both from the past. Loving the Dead and Gone is a lyrical novel about the transformative power of death and how tragedy binds people even more lastingly than passion.
Praise for Loving the Dead and Gone
“There has been an accident in tiny Gold Ridge, a place where most lives revolve around farming the earth or working the hosiery mill, and everyone is changed by it. In a voice that rings with the colloquial timbre of William Faulkner melded with the rural realism of Carol Chute’s The Beans of Egypt, Maine, Judith Turner-Yamamoto brilliantly uses a tragedy to draw us into a place so real you can smell it, where her tapestry of narrator voices captivates us with empathy and love. I was fortunate to be on the panel of the Ohio Artistic Awards in Literature that chose to award Loving the Dead and Gone, recognizing its lyric strength and deep and empathic understanding of rural America.
—Elizabeth Cohen, author of The Hypothetical Girl
Turner-Yamamoto’s multigenerational saga reminds me of Bobbie Gentry’s great Patchwork album, with a touch of William Goyen, Lee Smith, and Our Town. This bittersweet paean to a NC Piedmont hosiery mill town is a mid- 20th century time capsule of car wrecks, nerve medicine, open caskets, ghosts, and gossip. Bad luck and trouble ricochet between families until desire and memories are swept away. And yet, the female lens and circular narrative make Loving the Dead and Gone a sensory delight.
—Richard Peabody, editor, Gargoyle Magazine
Judith Turner-Yamamoto’s Loving the Dead and Gone is a love story that begins with a tragedy, proceeds through loss and suffering, and winds up in a place of deeply earned redemption. Though there are several characters who guide us through this unstoppable narrative, none is more breathtakingly rendered that Aurilla Cutter. Women like Aurilla, we say in the South, will live forever because they’re too mean to die. Ah, but Aurilla has a past that will touch your heart and explain her present. She’s an unforgettable character among a cast of unforgettables, from her put-upon daughter, Berta May, to the heartbroken and fiery seventeen-year-old widow, Darlene, to Berta May’s haunted husband, Clayton. Actually, everything about Loving the Dead and Gone, to Judith Turner-Yamamoto’s great credit, is unforgettable.
—Ed Falco, author of the NY Times Best Seller, The Family Corleone
Judith Turner-Yamamoto has written a brilliantly lyrical novel born of her native Southern heritage. Within these pages are the compelling and unforgettable characters of a North Carolina family steeped in love and generational conflict tempered by a tough country spirit.
—Kay Sloan, author of The Patron Saint of Red Chevys, a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection.