December 2011 6×9, 320 pages $19.95 paper
Blue Sabine is a story of five generations of women in the same family, told in their voices, along with those of some men of Holt blood. It is set along the Sabine River, which divides the state of Texas from Louisiana and the Deep South. From 1867 (when the Holts first came to Texas) to the present, the novel chronicles the emotional lives of grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and nieces, all bound by kinship and history. Each comes to terms with being a woman in the West, in Texas, and in her own way and her own time. In its flow and its setting of boundaries, the Sabine River comes to reflect what remains and what changes in the way the Holt women see their world and themselves.
“The river forever flows, and it pulls at all it touches,” one of the characters says, “yet it never leaves, and it never stays.” Two twenty-first century descendants give the narrative its overall shape and connection: Clement, an award-winning movie director, and his cousin Kay-Phuong, a woman of Vietnamese and Holt lineage, who has made herself into a fashion model and actress. They have returned to the Valley of the Sabine, where the Holts have lived for almost two hundred years, to hear once more the old stories and to confirm their own part in the saga. They seek to understand and to play their role in the continuing telling and retelling of the narratives that bind them to their family and to the past.
What Reviewers Are Saying About Blue Sabine
Amber Peckham writes in TriQuarterly Online, “Blue Sabine is a lyrical, unsentimental interior portrait of the frustrations and trials of the Holt family, told by the family’s matriarch and five generations of her descendents….Duff is successful in creating human, relatable characters; a reader may well pause for self-examination during some of the narrators’ more reflective moments. This book makes readers feel keenly the weight of their own past and consider the weight carried by those they love.”
“Blue Sabine is a big, spellbinding novel, as deep and complex as the Texas river for which it’s named. The mystery and relevance of the past is Gerald Duff’s great theme, as he masterfully traces one family’s history from the Civil War to the present day. His great characters are all astonishing storytellers, with true and compelling voices that will ring in my head forever.” —Lee Smith, author of Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger and On Agate Hill
“Blue Sabine [is] a veritable saga of insights, intimacies and intimations. The characters are obsessed with their family, and the reader iscompletely caught up in this American story set in the historic valley of the Sabine.” —Roy Blount Jr., author of Alphabetter Juice: The Joy of Text
Gerald Duff grew up in the petro-chemical area of the Gulf Coast and the pine barrens of Deep East Texas. He worked as a hand in the oil fields and the cotton fields, as a janitor, as a TV cameraman, as a professor of English, as a college dean, and as a bit actor in television drama. Blue Sabine is his seventh novel. His other titles include Indian Giver; That’s All Right, Mama: The Unauthorized Life of Elvis’s Twin; Memphis Ribs, and Coasters.