Sweet and Low
by Nick White
Blue Rider Press. 304 pages, $25.
IT MUST be intimidating for young Southern writers of fiction starting out to feel that they must measure up to writers like Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O’Connor, to name just a few. Mississippi native Nick White is clearly aware of the legacy of these writers, but he’s also ready to carve a new path in the short stories in his debut collection, Sweet and Low.
Set mostly in the Delta region of Mississippi where White was born and raised, the collection is divided into two sections. In a story in the first section, “The Lovers,” a widow slowly realizes the truth about her husband’s secret life after she discovers an unrecognizable pocket watch among her husband’s belongings. Meanwhile, that watch’s owner—an ex-lover of the dead husband—tries to put the affair behind him and to focus on his current love interest. The two characters swirl around each other until the story reaches a surprising and well-wrought conclusion. In “Gatlinburg,” two men head to a Tennessee resort to try to inject romance back into their stale relationship. And in “These Heavenly Bodies,” a trouble-making teenage boy becomes enraptured with conjoined twins who are spending the summer in his hometown.